Why SCO Thinks It Can Win

An eWeek interview with SCO’s Darl McBride and Chris Sontag.

The majority of commentators (present company included) believe that SCO will lose its case against IBM. But if SCO does win, this interview may be a valuable piece of history. The eWeek interview has a bunch of great quotes.

On SCO vs. the GPL:

“[eWeek:] You had engineers working on bringing Unix and Linux closer together, which they did with the Linux Kernel Personality; you had people with access to Unix code tasked with contributing to Linux. I find it really difficult to see how you can win without knocking out the GPL itself.

Sontag: We don’t have to knock out the GPL for us to succeed on the copyright issue…. Section 0 of the GPL states that the legit copyright holder has to place a notice assigning the copyright over to the GPL. All these contributions of our IP did not have an assignment by SCO saying here, ‘We assign these copyrights to the GPL.’ The fact that we participated with Linux does not mean that we inadvertently contributed our code to the GPL. You can’t contribute inadvertently to Linux.”

On nonliteral copying:

McBride: [T]he analogy I like to use is Vanilla Ice’s ‘Ice Ice Baby’ versus David Bowie and Queen’s ‘Under Pressure.’ If you just look at the words, I don’t see a copyright violation, but if you listen to the riffs, you can hear where they’re the same.

Editor’s Note: Vanilla Ice settled out of court presumably because his song included riffs that had been taken from Bowie and Queen’s work. See Copyright Website LLC for more on the issue.

So if SCO ultimately prevails, it may be because 1) any GPLed code was unauthorized and 2) any copying was nonliteral.

For an example of a software package that was “contributed” to the GPL without the permission of the copyright owner (and for a statement attributed to the FSF about why this is a bad thing), see the case of Nullsoft’s Waste.

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