SCO has filed a lawsuit alleging that IBM has misappropriated and misused SCO's Unix code.
With two thirds gone of the 100-day period before SCO is due to revoke IBM's Unix licence, vnunet.com earlier this week interviewed Chris Sontag, senior vice president and general manager of SCO Source. Sontag has overall responsibility for SCO's intellectual property.
I gather SCO is encouraged by IBM's response to the lawsuit. Why is that?
They really did not make much of a response. So we are moving forward now and we expect to speedily get into the discovery process and be able to start coming forward in a court setting with the evidence related to the evidence in our lawsuit.
When do you think it is going to come to court?
It's basically up to the judge to decide the timing of how things will move forward.
Why specifically were you encouraged about IBM? What makes you feel perhaps you have an even stronger case?
There is no credible defence to any of the arguments and claims we made. We expect and feel we have strong evidence to support the claims we have made.
Regardless of the case coming to court, will the licence be revoked after 100 days assuming nothing else happens in between?
That's the path we are headed down right now. We have given IBM notice of the revocation of their AIX licence. Our expectations are that we will complete that on 13 June.
What would IBM have to do that would get it out of the hole so to speak, in regard to that?
I can't answer for IBM. There is strong contractual language that allows us on breach - as we have alleged in the lawsuit - the right to revoke the AIX licence.
What would that mean in practice? IBM has systems out there running AIX. Is it going to stop them all? Can it stop them all?
I don't have a good answer for that right now.
Presumably IBM would be liable for every single one as far as you're concerned - every single use, deployment?
So that would therefore be built as part of the value of the lawsuit would it?
I don't know if I would characterise it that way. It's an element of the lawsuit certainly.
My understanding is that SuSE says it is protected from anything you are claiming. Have you got a comment on this as you are part of the UnitedLinux consortium?
I have reviewed the agreements we have with SuSE. I would not characterise them in any form whatsoever as providing SuSE with any rights to our Unix intellectual property. They are dead wrong on that issue.
What you are saying then is: if there is Unix code put into Linux by IBM, and SuSE is using Linux, they would therefore be liable by default?
Would that also be true of Red Hat?
The same issue in terms of inappropriate intellectual property in Linux being distributed by any commercial distribution would provide them with the same issue. So Red Hat, SuSE or any other commercial distribution would have equal liability.
So that would apply to Sun Microsystems, which is now moving to Red Hat as well? So presumably, if you were to win the lawsuit, you could actually destroy the Linux industry?
Certainly our intention is not to destroy anything. Our intention is to enforce and get value for our intellectual property. Just as anyone who has intellectual property is going to want to protect their property.
You do a great deal of writing, analysis and so on. I assume that your work is copyrighted. What about a company who takes Peter Williams's work and posts it somewhere else on the internet and attributes it to themselves? Taking 100 per cent of your work. That's a problem isn't it?
Yes, it does happen. But it is not quite on the same scale.
What also occurs is that people will hijack a paragraph here or there or rework it a little bit to try and make it look as though it was not your work, it was their own. But you can tell they have moved things around so it doesn't look like it. But really it was your work. That is still a copyright issue.
So when certain elements in the Linux community say 'show us the lines of code', yes there are lines of code. But of even greater concern to us are the areas we have identified that we say have been obfuscated: changed around so as to hide the fact they are from our source.
That's a problem. That's a huge problem to us. Rewriting a line of code to obfuscate does not solve the problem. Do you understand where I am going?
OK. Let's suppose, despite all your hopes, you lose the case. Where would that leave you? My understanding is that you are not in great financial shape.
Actually I would not characterise us that way. We announced with our first-quarter earnings that our financial situation had dramatically improved. I will leave it at that, but we expect very shortly to be announcing our second quarter and it is my understanding that it should be very favourable.
But the legal costs are going to be huge aren't they?
We have reasonable control of our legal costs. We have an ongoing Unix-related business and it is doing quite well. We have new products and new strategic directions for the company in terms of SCO-X [web services initiative] which is getting a great deal of interest and attention.
The majority of the company is not focused on the lawsuit. The vast majority of the company is focused on the ongoing Unix business and the other products.
So you think you can survive even losing the court case, do you?
Yes, I believe so.
Out of interest, are you backed by any other organisation in this?
We are backed by ourselves. We have our own ongoing business and that is what is financing it.
So there isn't anybody else backing you, financially that is?
Just to confirm. The offending code, was it all SCO-written? Or did some of it come from AT&T or even in UnixWare when owned by Novell?
There is code written which came through from AT&T Unix system labs, some written when the Unix source was under the control of Novell and some written under the control of SCO. All of that work, that body, is owned by SCO. And SCO is the owner of the Unix operating system.
Going back to the AT&T days. It was free as an operating system. At least it was given to the universities for free, wasn't it?
No, it was not given to the universities free. It was given for educational use and there were confidentiality agreements that were strict and enforced with those universities.
Those who characterise it as being given away by AT&T to those universities do not understand the nature of those contracts and what occurred.
Finally. Somebody raised a possible problem that you yourselves distribute the infringing code under the GPL licence. Do you see that as a problem from your point of view?
No we do not, because you do not have an infringement issue when you are providing customers with products that have your intellectual property in them.
OK, but Linux has a kernel which isn't yours. Are you saying that there are changes to the kernel?
We have concerns and issues even with areas of the kernel.
So you are saying that you are happy distributing the kernel because the offending code belongs to you anyway, as I understand it?
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