SCO Tries To Tack Copyright Infringement To IBM Claim

SCO upped the ante to its existing lawsuit against IBM with an additional copyright infringement claim that could bring the General Public License (GPL) under the legal spotlight.
SCO's attempt to add a major copyright infringement claim to its existing lawsuit against IBM was heard by a Utah court on Friday.

The Lindon, Utah-based Unix company filed a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against IBM last March based on alleged contractual violations. But in recent days, SCO upped the ante with an additional copyright infringement claim against Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM that could bring the General Public License (GPL) under the legal spotlight.

The amended complaint was filed Feb. 4, according to an SCO spokesman. In March, SCO filed a claim charging that IBM violated its Unix Systems V contract by donating Unix code to the Linux kernel. Now copyright infringement is on the table against IBM.

"We're emphasizing our copyright claim," SCO spokesman Mark Modersitzki said Friday.

Industry observers questioned whether the amended complaint represents a shift in strategy for SCO, which said it intends to file a major copyright infringement claim against a Linux customer--not a vendor--by the end of February.

Modersitzki on Friday wouldn't comment on the speculation but said he wasn't aware of any shift in strategy.

Observers also questioned the timing of the amended suit. The filing came just two days before the court is expected to issue a decision on the merits of SCO's contractual claim against IBM--or at least a determination of whether SCO provided enough code to IBM and the court to assess its charges.

For its part, SCO has asked the court to force IBM to hand over all the code from IBM's latest version of the Dynix Unix OS for further evaluation.

Linus Torvalds, creator and lead developer of the Linux kernel, points out that SCO is merely asking the court to consider adding copyright infringement to its case to keep the controversy brewing.

"It looks like SCO knows that what they have filed so far is pure junk, and they are nervous that the judge will say what they've filed is not sufficient, which would be disastrous for SCO," Torvalds wrote in an e-mail to CRN. "So what they do is [try to] keep things open for future amendments of our complaints."

Passionate supporters of both SCO and IBM are anxiously awaiting a ruling that may steer the direction of the case.

SCO supporters, many of whom are in the Unix camp, remain convinced that the company has a valid claim. "SCO is right. IBM is trying to steal the code under the cloak of open source," said Douglas Nassaur, president and CEO of True North Technology, a Sun Microsystems partner based in Alpharetta, Ga. "IBM supports open source and hopes SCO gets hijacked so they can steal it. At that point, IBM won't need the open-source community or SCO because they'll have the code."

Many of IBM's Linux supporters, on the other hand, believe the amended complaint is a sign of SCO's desperation and say IBM did nothing wrong. "SCO is asking for an amendment now to leave [it] something after the judge hands SCO [its head] at the hearing today," said Anthony Awtrey, a vice president at Ideal Technology, a Linux solution provider in Orlando, Fla. "Unfortunately for SCO, with Novell now asserting its copyrights over the Unix source code, making a compelling case to the IBM judge that they have clear rights will be more difficult.

"Expect IBM to file for summary judgment on many of the complaints due to SCO failing to [specify] the evidence of the complaints," Awtrey added. "Also, expect the judge to delay allowing amended complaints involving copyright infringement until after SCO is able to win its case with Novell."

The court has taken the matter under advisement. SCO is expected to issue a formal statement on the outcome of the hearing later on Friday.

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