Most Linux users have been reluctant to play by SCO Group Inc.'s rules in the company's mounting crusade to be compensated for its intellectual property. But following last week's bold lawsuits against AutoZone Inc. and DaimlerChrysler Corp., SCO's threat of legal action now has teeth. It's getting harder for other Linux adopters to stay out of the fray.
With a $5 billion lawsuit already pending against IBM, SCO Group CEO Darl McBride warned in November that the company would begin targeting Linux users if they didn't sign its licensing contracts. On March 2, SCO filed suit against AutoZone, one of the largest auto-parts retailers in the United States, for violating SCO's Unix copyrights by using Linux. The next day, the vendor did the same against DaimlerChrysler, accusing the automaker of breaking a Unix System V licensing contract and possibly contributing Unix source code to Linux. SCO has claimed, but has yet to prove, that some of the Unix System V source code it owns has been illegally copied into Linux.
"Many end users have not considered the ramifications of using SCO-copyrighted property," McBride said during a conference call last week. "Beginning today, we are moving to reinforce these contract rights against end users who've ignored SCO's position." McBride says his company tried but failed to reach agreement with AutoZone over its Linux use. Officials for AutoZone and DaimlerChrysler declined to comment.
In suing DaimlerChrysler, SCO has signaled that it's not overlooking Unix licensees that might have used Unix code outside the scope of their original agreements. DaimlerChrysler has been using Linux clusters since 2002 to run virtual crash tests (see Linux Clusters Power Virtual Crash Tests, Oct. 28, 2002). According to SCO, DaimlerChrysler failed to respond to a December letter it sent to 3,000 Unix licensees requesting that they recertify the terms of their contracts. SCO got responses from about half the companies, McBride says.
As SCO widens its fight, the company has so far found just a few takers for the so-called SCOsource licenses it introduced in August as a way for Linux users to avoid litigation. EV1Servers.net, a division of Everyones Internet Inc., last week revealed it signed an SCO license for an undisclosed amount. But McBride admits SCO has sold fewer than 50 such licenses.