InformationWeek's Larry Greenemeier spoke with Cohen about open-source end-user license agreements, his organization's expanding role, and SCO Group's case against IBM and the Linux community.
InformationWeek: End-user license agreements offered by distributors such as Red Hat and SuSE don't protect Linux users from copyright violations in the kernel. What rights do Linux users have?
Cohen: The General Public License gives users the right to run an open-source program for any purpose, study how a program works and adapt it to their needs, redistribute copies of the software, and improve a program for general public use. When you download Linux, it comes with a GPL.
InformationWeek: What role can OSDL play in Linux's ongoing evolution?
Cohen: OSDL is looking to expand its role in the Linux community. That's why it persuaded [Linus] Torvalds and [Andrew] Morton to join and set up a North American customer advisory council comprised of Fortune 100 companies, including Unilever. OSDL plans to establish similar councils in Europe and Japan by the beginning of next year.
InformationWeek: Will SCO Group's lawsuit cause companies to think twice about using Linux because they don't really know where all of that code is coming from?
Cohen: SCO Group's lawsuit won't stop users from deploying Linux or change the way Linux end-user license agreements are written. Regardless of whether a piece of software is open source or proprietary, you can't be sure anyone's software is their original intellectual property.
InformationWeek: Why can't someone check SCO Group's claims against the Linux source code and find out once and for all if there's copyrighted Unix System V source code in the Linux kernel?
Cohen: Without clear information made available as to what the offending code is, we can't go fix it. When we've looked for it, no one can find it. SCO Group claims that the SMP [symmetrical multiprocessing] capabilities in version 2.4 [of the Linux kernel] couldn't have improved so vastly over version 2.2 without the help of Unix source code. The OSDL has checked the code in the area of SMP and doesn't see any clear indication that it was contributed by IBM or any other Unix licensee. [SCO Group's] lawsuit is about business and it's about money. It's not about Linux at all or the momentum of Linux.