OSDL Releases Position Paper on SCO v. Novell

By Allen Bernard

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The Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), a global consortium dedicated to accelerating the adoption of Linux, published a position paper Tuesday indicating Linux customers will likely ignore SCO Group's legal threats until a court decision is rendered in the litigation brought by SCO Group against Novell regarding copyright ownership.

The paper's author, Professor Eben Moglen of Columbia University, is an expert on copyright law as applied to software, said OSDL. OSDL said it is disseminating the position paper to address member's concerns arising from the SCO's ongoing litigation threat to sue end-users.

In his paper, available on the OSDL Web site, Moglen makes two main points:

  • SCO admits, by suing Novell, that its claim to exclusive ownership of the Unix copyright is in doubt. Moglen argues that no judge would hold an end-user liable for intentionally infringing SCO's rights when SCO itself has cast doubt on what it owns. As a result, Linux customers have little incentive to purchase a license from SCO and instead will wait for a final decision on who owns the copyrights.
  • Even once the litigation is resolved, and regardless of who prevails, customers will still have the right to use the Linux code in question without purchasing a license from either SCO or Novell. Moglen points out that both SCO and Novell (who recently purchased SuSE Linux, a distributor of Linux) have distributed the Linux code under the GPL. Since the GPL allows licensees to use, modify, copy and distribute the Linux code freely, the results of the litigation will have no affect on those rights, and customers will have no obligation to purchase another license from either SCO or Novell to ensure those rights.
  • "We see Linux deployments continuing around the world and many prudent customers are choosing to ignore SCO's legal threats until the courts rule, particularly given SCO's admitted uncertainty about its own rights," said Stuart Cohen, OSDL CEO. "We believe Professor Moglen's paper gives Linux customers, developers and others added peace of mind about the choices they make about Linux."

    As part of its mission to provide peace of mind to Linux users, OSDL in January 2004 announced a donation-based defense fund that will defray legal expenses of Linux users involved in litigation with SCO on issues that affect the Linux community and industry. OSDL's goal is to raise $10 million.