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In-depth

SCO: The party never ends

Like the bad actor in a Victorian melodrama, SCO refuses to lie down, and keeps coming back for more.

Two years ago, we reported the imminent end of the long running legal battle between The SCO Group and the Linux Community, represented by Novell, IBM and others.

The basis for SCO's legal action against IBM was the allegation that SCO had bought the rights to the UNIX system V copyrights from Novell, and that free software developers, aided and abetted by IBM and others, had copied "substantial System V code" into the Linux Kernel.

SCO has failed to provide any evidence during six long years of litigation but has claimed $5 billion from IBM in compensation.

To back these allegations, Darl McBride, then the chief executive of The SCO Group, claimed: "When you look in the code base [of the Linux kernel], and you see line-by-line copy of our UNIX System V code - not just the code itself, but comments to the code, titles that were in the comments and humour elements that were in the comments - you see that everything is taken straight across. Everything is exactly the same except they have stripped off the copyright notices and pretended it was just Linux code."

You figure it out

McBride also made the astonishing claim that "We counted over a million lines of code that we allege are infringed in the Linux kernel today." Six years on, no evidence has been shown to substantiate these claims. The Linux kernel code, in all its versions, is there for all to see.

Judge Brooke Wells expressed the problem clearly in an order granting in part IBM's motion to limit SCO's claims, before the Utah District Court, 6 August 2004.

"SCO's arguments," she wrote, "are akin to SCO telling IBM, 'Sorry, we are not going to tell you what you did wrong because you already know.'"

She went on to observe that "If an individual were stopped and accused of shoplifting after walking out of Neiman Marcus they would expect to be eventually told what they allegedly stole. It would be absurd for an officer to tell the accused that 'you know what you stole. I'm not telling.' Or, to simply hand the accused individual a catalog of Neiman Marcus' entire inventory and say 'It's in there somewhere, you figure it out.'"

As it is, SCO has squeezed another reprieve out of a technicality, and will be able to stumble through a few more days in court before the final curtain falls.

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