SCO Group Offers Peek Into Unix Source Code

Vendor hopes to bolster its claims that Linux developers are pilfering code
The SCO Group Inc. is putting its code where its mouth is. The software company last week began showing interested parties portions of its Unix source code that it alleges have been incorporated into the Linux operating system without its permission.

There have been dozens of requests by customers, analysts, individual Linux developers, and journalists to see firsthand the validity of SCO Group's claims, a company spokesman says. SCO Group plans to reveal its source code over the next several weeks to those who sign a nondisclosure agreement.

"We're going to show hundreds of lines of code," SCO Group CEO Darl McBride said recently.

Darl McBride, CEO of SCO Group.

"We're going to show hundreds of lines of code," SCO's McBride says.
One of the first analysts to get a peek says parts of SCO's System V Unix code and Linux appear to be the same. "My impression is that [SCO's claim] is credible," the Yankee Group's Laura DiDio says.

So far, none of the top Linux vendors has requested to view the source code, the SCO Group spokesman says. The company plans to let individual Linux developers see its evidence on a case-by-case basis. "We have to trust them," he says.

SCO Group sued IBM in March for $1 billion, alleging that IBM improperly shared SCO Group's proprietary Unix technology with Linux developers. According to the suit, IBM not only "breached" its licensing agreement with SCO for the Unix code that's used as part of IBM's AIX operating system but also "induced and encouraged others to breach their obligations to SCO." SCO Group has threatened to revoke IBM's Unix license on June 13 if IBM doesn't take steps to address the charges.

IBM shows no signs of conforming to SCO Group's demands. "IBM believes our license is irrevocable and perpetual," a spokeswoman says. "We have the right to continue shipping AIX according to the terms of the contract."

At least one Linux user remains unruffled. "These sorts of macro trends take a long time to unfold," says Laef Olson, chief technology officer for, a Web site owned by Classified Ventures LLC that connects auto buyers and sellers. uses Linux from Red Hat Inc. to run a portion of its Web site. If SCO Group has a valid claim, Olson says, he expects there will be some sort of settlement with IBM.

A spokesman for Linux vendor SuSE Linux AG says the Linux community will be able to replace quickly any questionable code, if such action is warranted.

According to a 10-K405 form that SCO Group, then Santa Cruz Operation Inc., filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in December 1996, it acquired the UnixWare and Unix System V Release 4 source-license business from Novell in December 1995. SCO Group bought "certain assets related to the Unix business, including the core intellectual property from Novell," the form states.

But SCO Group's core premise remains in question. Novell chairman and CEO Jack Messman issued a letter on May 28 challenging SCO Group's assertion that it owns the copyrights and patents to Unix System V. But McBride said last week that SCO Group has uncovered new documentation that proves its copyright ownership, and he said patents are not at issue.

Microsoft raised eyebrows several weeks ago when it revealed that it had signed a license for SCO Group's Unix software. Microsoft officials said they signed the deal to cover potential use of Unix code in future products. But it's also possible that Microsoft was covering its tracks for code already in use but not licensed. When asked, the SCO spokesman said, "That's probably accurate."

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