GPL or Copyright Law -- Pick Your Poison

Friday, June 13 2003 @ 04:49 AM EDT

Contributed by: PJ

SCO has been saying that they didn't know they were releasing under the GPL. What if that were true? Then it would mean that they never had the right to release a Linux product in the first place. If the GPL is found invalid, then you revert to copyright law.

Now here is the detail that just occured to me: Linus Torvalds isn't the only individual who has contributed to the kernel and his policy is, or at least it was the last time I looked, that each contributor retains his or her own copyright rights, even though the kernel itself is under GPL v2. So... if SCO released a product outside of the GPL, then couldn't any of the copyright holders bring an action for copyright infringement against SCO? Any attorneys out there?

Another helpful reader noticed that in my article on Wednesday I mentioned that some of SCO's press releases were no longer findable. He stepped up to the plate and has sent some further links, all showing, as did my Wednesday post, that SCO's claims that it didn't know it was releasing under the GPL don't seem to match the historical indications. If they didn't know, then a lot of their public statements were made by incompetents at best. What are the odds that their lawyers and/or coders never explained to them how the GPL works? Or that the management just never thought to inquire? Here are the links he sent. You'll notice in one that their then-PR director mentions Linux being "open source":

SCO and Industry Leaders Establish Free Standards Group

SCO to boost revenue by offering Linux services

Caldera Systems expands Unix acquisition plans

With eight-way SMP, Linux now ready for enterprise 'prime time'
Note: from April 1999

SCO grasping at the Linux straw?
Note quote from SCO PR Director: "We embrace the Linux movement, It's open source, which is where Unix came from, and it encourages innovation, not stagnation," said SCO's PR director Brian Ziel in a e-mail. "Developing for Linux is developing for Unix."

Because the first link takes you to a page with quite a lot on it, here is what it says in full, and as you read it, ask yourself, did they know or didn't they?

"SCO and Industry Leaders Establish Free Standards Group

SANTA CRUZ, CA May 10, 2000 - The Santa Cruz Operation, Inc. (SCO) announced today it has become a charter member of the Free Standards Group, an assembly of industry-leading companies driving to establish the Linux Standard Base (LSB). SCO has been involved since late 1999 in an effort to standardize Linux. LSB is designed to help the Linux market reach a new level of maturity and give ISVs a single target port rather than multiple ports for multiple platforms. Currently, there are minor variations among Linux distributions that make it difficult for ISVs to support Linux. The ultimate goal of the LSB is to provide a single, standard reference that will allow vendors to reap the benefit of seeing greater ISV support for Linux.

"Charter members of the Free Standards Group include IBM, LinuxCare, Sun, Red Hat, VALinux, Caldera Systems, TurboLinux, SuSE and others. Specifically, the LSB project consists of Linux developers, users and companies who have a vested interest in the overall success of the Linux market and share SCO's goal and vision of standards and interoperability."