Thursday, July 24, 2003
Australian Linux Group Fights Back -- So Does the World
As you may have read, Open Source Victoria has filed a complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, asking it to investigate SCO's activities in light of "unsubstantiated claims and extortive legal threats for money" against possibly hundreds of thousands of Australians:
"OSV member Con Zymaris said 'We take serious issue with The SCO Group's latest ploy, namely that of seeking licence fees from Linux users. As such, we have filed a complaint with the ACCC. We call on any Australian Linux users who feel pressured by SCO's actions to immediately contact the ACCC and file a complaint.'"
I contacted Con Zymaris to ask him to explain what it all means to those of us who are not Australians and don't know their law. Here is his reply:
"We are an advocacy group and industry cluster, representating around 60 state-based firms and developers who work with Free and Open Source Software. We have watched with interest the legal battle between The SCO Group and IBM. However, by making the statements that SCO made earlier this week, they have opened the battle and are attacking the 50 million users of Linux worldwide. We feel impelled to now act.
"We have taken this step because, by our understanding, The SCO Group's latest action may be illegal under Australian Trade Practices Law. It is our understanding that SCO have indicated that they will be pressuring Linux users for payment of a licence. We believe this is a 'misrepresentation of need', where an organisation is suggesting that people must make payments that in fact they are not obligated to. This may be illegal in Australia, and in other countries.
"At no stage have SCO proven any of their claims. These claims remain totally unsubstantiated. Furthermore, SCO/Caldera have spent the past 9 years helping Linux acquire the features they now claim were purloined from SCO's IP base. Further, they have been, and continue to ship their Linux code (which includes the putative SCO IP) under the GPL, which explicitly precludes SCO from asking for the licence fees they are seeking. By not abiding by the GPL, they are in fact breaking worldwide Copyright Law, and are liable to suits from all parties who have contributed to the Linux kernel over the years.
"Excerpts from the GPL which are pertinent.
"' 5. You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License. Therefore, by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so, and all its terms and conditions for copying, distributing or modifying the Program or works based on it.
"' 6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein. You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties to this License.'
"Due to the fact that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which is an industry and regulatory watchdog ( http://www.accc.gov.au/ ) is in the process of investigating our complaint, we cannot pre-empt any of their findings, however, we believe there is a case to be made under Section 52 and Section 53 of the Australian Federal Trade Practices Act.
"To whit: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/tpa1974149/s52.html -- 'TRADE PRACTICES ACT 1974 - SECT 52
'Misleading or deceptive conduct
"'(1) A corporation shall not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.'' http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/tpa1974149/s53.html
"'TRADE PRACTICES ACT 1974 - SECT 53
"'False or misleading representations
"'A corporation shall not, in trade or commerce, in connexion with the supply or possible supply of goods or services or in connexion with the promotion by any means of the supply or use of goods or services: ... (f) make a false or misleading representation concerning the need for any goods or services; ...'''
He ends by suggesting that all Linux users wherever they are "approach their own countries' industry and consumer watchdogs with a similar complaint if they feel that The SCO Group is using extortive legal threats to demand money to which they have no proven claim."
Those were not the only fighting words today. Take a look at this compilation on Slashdot, including some skeptical reactions from SCO's customers.
What About Germany?
MozillaQuest has some information on that. And take a look at SCO Germany's site. Not a whisper about licenses there. Or anything else. Not even the hilarious "Relax. Worry Free Software" logo.
About Those Copyrights
The article in MozillaQuest on copyright claims contains some other nuggets. First, that SGI has copyright in NUMA, and that it was SGI that contributed NUMA to Linux, and second, that the 80 lines of code that they have been showing analysts were not official Linux kernel code. They came from "an IHV (independent hardware vendor) rather than code from kernel.org -- the official Linux kernel code." Finally, the article quotes IBM's spokesman Trink Guarino as saying: "IBM owns the copyrights for the work we've done in AIX, JFS, RCU and the code that takes advantage of NUMA hardware."
And In The US
And Eben Moglen, of the FSF, says the licensing plan would not only be in violation of the GPL, but also completely pointless, and RedHat agrees:
"'You don't need a copyright license from anybody to use any program,' he said. 'That's like saying you need a copyright license to read a newspaper ... if there's plagiarised material in the New York Times, that doesn't mean that people who buy the New York Times are liable.'
"A copyright license was required to redistribute software, Moglen said, but Linux distributors would not be able to adopt the SCO license because it would place them in conflict with the GPL.'
"Linux distributor, Red Hat, for one, had no interest in adopting SCO's license. 'We have full confidence in our code, so we don't feel this license is necessary for anybody,' Red Hat spokesperson, Leigh Day, said. 'It's just another tactic in this battle that they've waged through the media. It's just a distraction,' she said."