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Article

SCO Attempts to Have GPL Declared Void

"The GPL violates the US Constitution, together with copyright, antitrust and export control laws," it claims

It may never have been tested before in court, but its day has certainly arrived now: the GPL is about to make its first appearance under the full scrutiny of the US legal system - thanks to an answer by the SCO Group to an IBM court filing that SCO in turn filed at the end of last week.

"The GPL violates the US Constitution," SCO claims, "together with copyright, antitrust and export control laws."

No small charges.

As often in this pre-trial phase, SCO did not see fit to offer any actual details backing up its assertions. But the general thrust of its argument appears to be that under the GPL, mere human beings - American citizens - arrogate to themselves the right to give permission to copy, modify, or redistribute intellectual property, while that kind of regulation of copyright, according to SCO's contention, can and must only be done - per Article 1 Section 8 of the US copyright law - by Congress itself.

A GPL licence permits anyone to see, modify, and distribute a program's underlying source code, as long as the author of the modifications publishes them when distributing the modified version.

"By this reasoning, then," says one commentator, in a post to Slashdot, "SCO will claim it has every right to use GPL code in its proprietary distributions, but on the other hand, can contend that its own code (or code which IBM created under a license which grants SCO ownership of their code) was never intended (by SCO) to be released under GPL nor public domain."

Another comment on Slashdot raises a slightly different perspective: "Why is SCO trying to get GPL code into the public domain?" the author of the post asks. "Could they perhaps be trying to cover their tails in case someone were to uncover GPL code in software THEY have been releasing closed source?

LinuxWorld will seek an insight in due course on the SCO contention from the creator of the GPL himself, Richard Stallman.

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Most Recent Comments
William Richter 11/01/03 09:41:54 AM EST

The GPL is a commercial licence for software falling under its domain. If the GPL is invalid, so is every other commercial software licence (EULA) in existance, including SCO's own. I wonder what Microsoft, who has helped bankroll SCO's effort, thinks about this latest move.

However, I do not think Microsoft or GPL has anything to fear. Software licence agreements have held up in court already. However, I am interested to see how much more of SCO's "proof" of IBM's wrongdoing turns out to be GPLed code.

John Zoetebier 10/31/03 06:15:04 PM EST

It looks like the behaviour of SCO is becoming more and more irrational, unless there is a hidden agenda.
Do they really think the USA is ruling the world ?
While the lawyers for SCO are filling their pockets the rest of the world is moving ahead. By 3035 China will bypass the USA and be the bigggest economy. Long before that time SCO will have disappeared from the face of the world.

However there may be something else going on. What SCO has to proof is that the 0.0001% of their code in Linux is worth money, while the 99.9999% of code other people contributed is worth nothing. If this is not true, anybody contributing to Linux can start sending invoices as well. This will destroy the extortion business of SCO and is obviously something they like to avoid.

Ed Martin 10/31/03 04:40:44 PM EST

I am starting a new job as IT Manager where their is a SCO box in place. The first course of business will be to replace it with a nice Redhat ES system!

Roel Eiting 10/31/03 04:14:11 PM EST

We 'd better don't mention SCO and their products any more before they pass the US congress, They might be copyrighted??

Roel Eiting 10/31/03 04:13:06 PM EST

We 'd better don't mention SCO and their products any more before they pass the US congress, They might be copyrighted??

Thibault Le Paul 10/31/03 05:05:02 AM EST

Those attacks (i.e the troyan "you_need_us" attack, then billing Linux corporate users, and now the GPL breaking) sound really M$. I think this because it has more chance to fail, but in the same time it may discourage corporate users that felt in security with open source code. I mean, the risk for SCO is really expensive (public image, court fees), but there is someone else behind.

The message is addressed to corporate users : "you want to use open source, free code, it may not be legally safe ; come back to M$". But this message has no effect or a reactional effect on politic, philosophic open source
users.

The problem as always is citizen against corporations. By chance Linux has many corporate and citizen supporters, and a great public fame. It is too late to break the move.

John Rutter 10/31/03 04:00:25 AM EST

It is clear that SCO are in deep, or that their lawyers can see they are fools easily parted with their money (or MS money, at it happens). For SCO, there is no way to win this. For MS, it helps to muddy the waters in their attack on Linux (and doesn't exactly promote Unix either).

But to mention that the US Constitution is the top legal tier is exceptionally arrogant. Something us non-American countries are getting used to!

What about the WIPO, which has many statements on copyright and patent issues? I suppose they are treated with the same disdain as the United Nations?

I'll be glad when SCO and its expensive lawyers give up (or lose) on this pathetic process of generating FUD for non-MS companies, products and services.

Roald 10/31/03 01:39:33 AM EST

From what I know, GPL is an international license agreement. Any legal actions taken in the US to uppose GPL, can only have outcomes that only apply to the US. Thus, the rest of the world can keep on using GPL. I find it very arrogant of SCO to claim invalidity of GPL solely based on the US law and constitution.

May M$ go to hell 10/31/03 01:36:29 AM EST

I have the feeling that this is a proxy war. Otherwise, SCO's actions do not make sense.

Cesare 10/30/03 07:32:39 PM EST

How crazy can you get!
You start a case where you accuse on illegal copying of code you published earlier under the GPL.
Next you begin to become aware that your case isn't very strong.
Then you tackle the GPL, hoping that you win the case.
If you are lucky to win, you change the sequence of the years and put 2003 before the year you initiated the case.
Finally when in court in 2004 or so, you try to convince the judge that the GPL had been declared void before you published the code under the GPL, so the copying of your code was therefore illegal.....(to be continued)

Chuck 10/30/03 07:46:42 AM EST

If SCO wins on this count, doesn't that effectively invalidate all software licenses as they all grant or restrict (mostly restrict) usage in direct opposition to copyright law? Just my two cents.

cale 10/29/03 07:22:22 PM EST

If one intends to copy something that some other entity has copyrighted, does that person ask the holder of the copyright or the government for permission? I have seen numerous quoted passages 'reprinted with the permission of "so-and-so" but never has "so-and-so" been uncle sam.

What ramifications will this venture of SCO, if sucessful, have on source quotations, as in a scholarly paper? Does a bibliography (or works cited, im never sure which term is more popular) become a federal document? It would be awfully hard to publish an essay which lists at its end people who should, upon reading it, sue the publisher.

Just wondering how this will work...

Paul Sephton 10/29/03 03:21:06 PM EST

You know; that approach just about invalidates every copyright there is, including SCO's own. AFAIK American congress has not directly or indirectly been involved in granting copyright to SCO (or any other company) for software produced or purchased by companies.

To argue that the American congress is the only authority that may grant a copyright is rather self defeatist IMO (as well as rather arrogant), since it follows that SCO's copyrights must largely be invalidated as well by this argument.

To my knowledge, Copyright is an automatic right of ownership by the producer of printed material (or these days software). This right is not granted by anyone explicitely, but is implicit in the fact that the owner/writer also owns the "right to copy" the material. This, as opposed to patents which are indeed granted and enforced by patent law.

It is only just that the owner of a copyright should determine who else may have the right to copy software/material. If the owner chooses to subject that right under the GPL, he explicitely relinquishes the right to determine who will in future copy (or extend) the material.

Ed Martin 10/29/03 02:58:25 PM EST

This is really pathetic. McBride would sue his mother. Losers all of them and anyone who supports them.

Chris Broumley 10/29/03 02:13:31 PM EST

Sounds like SCO is grasping at straws, having for all intents and purposes failed to easily pursue their initial money-grab endeavour, it would seem that they are now simply trying to stick it to the people making it hard for them to grab a license fee from anyone using linux. If you can't run the show, get the show cancelled.