GNU's Not UNIX and It's Not "Linux" Either

Saturday, June 14 2003 @ 04:33 AM EDT

Contributed by: PJ



We're not all experts on the GPL. But Eben Moglen, the Free Software Foundation's attorney, is. For that reason, and because a great deal of SCO's case turns on the GPL, you might enjoy reading Mr. Moglen's explanation of "SCO v. IBM".

Regarding SCO's claim that "Linux" contains UNIX code in violation of SCO's copyrights, he first points out that Linux is appropriately the name of the kernel only:

"SCO has used 'Linux' to mean 'all free software,' or 'all free software constituting a UNIX-like operating system.' This confusion, which the Free Software Foundation warned against in the past, is here shown to have the misleading consequences the Foundation has often predicted. 'Linux' is the name of the kernel most often used in free software systems. But the operating system as a whole contains many other components, many of them products of the Foundation's GNU Project. GNU's components are copyrighted works of the Free Software Foundation."

In short, SCO does not own the copyrights on any of their software.

The FSF policy for contributors most specifically would not allow any UNIX code in:

"Contributors to the GNU Project must follow the Free Software Foundation's rules for the project, which specify - among other things - that contributors must not enter into non-disclosure agreements for technical information relevant to their work on GNU programs, and that they must not consult or make any use of source code from non-free programs, including specifically UNIX."

He says SCO has not sued the Foundation, nor "despite our requests, identified any work whose copyright the Foundation holds -- including one version of the Linux kernel -- that SCO asserts infringes its rights in any way."

The trade secret claim against IBM is likely to fail, says Moglen, because when SCO released its "Linux" products, it did so with source code. It's not a trade secret if it's not a secret. What about their copyright claim?

"Copyright, as I have pointed out here before, protects expressions, not ideas. Copyright on source code protects not how a program works, but only the specific language in which the functionality is expressed. A program written from scratch to express the function of an existing program in a new way does not infringe the original program's copyright. GNU and Linux duplicate some aspects of UNIX functionality, but are independent bodies, not copies of existing expressions.

"But even if SCO could show that some portions of its UNIX source code were copied into the Linux kernel, the claim of copyright infringement would fail, because SCO has itself distributed the kernel under GPL. By doing so, SCO licensed everyone everywhere to copy, modify, and redistribute that code. SCO cannot now turn around and argue that code it sold people under GPL did not license the copying and redistribution of any copyrighted material of their own that code contained."

There's more, so do take a look .

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