LINUXWORLD : SCO unveils Linux licensing scheme

One day after being sued by Linux vendor Red Hat Inc. for “unfair and deceptive actions” relating to its claims about intellectual property violations in the Linux source code, The SCO Group Inc. Tuesday told Unix users exactly what it would cost to bring their systems out of the sights of SCO’s lawyers.

SCO’s charge: US$699 per processor.

SCO claims that the Linux source code contains unauthorized contributions, and in March it sued IBM Corp. forUS $1 billion, claiming that Big Blue had made some of those additions in violation of its Unix licensing agreement with SCO. Since then, the Lindon, Utah, company has widened the scope of its claims. It is now seeking more than US$3 billion in damages from IBM, and maintains that Linux users themselves could be subject to lawsuits for illegally using SCO’s intellectual property.

Tuesday’s announcement presents users with the option of paying SCO rather than running the risk of litigation. The US$699 per processor fee applies to server licenses only, said SCO spokesman Blake Stowell. His company also plans to offer less expensive licensing options for desktop and embedded Linux users, he said.

The license, called the SCO Intellectual Property License for Linux, lets Linux users run SCO’s intellectual property in binary form only. “It gives you a license to run the software only. You can’t view the source, and you can’t contribute it to an open-source product for everyone’s use,” Stowell said.

Open-source advocates have said that such a license would violate Linux’s GNU General Public License, (GPL) which prohibits the Linux source code from being mixed with a license like SCO’s, but Stowell disagreed. “This is a license that is designed to run in addition to the GPL,” he said.

SCO’s price tag is too high, according to one industry analyst. “That seems pretty steep to me,” said Sageza Group Inc. analyst Charles King, referring to the US$700 ballpark figure that SCO had previously mentioned. “If they made this thing so cheap and so easy that it made more sense to pony up a few thousand bucks and pay it, and not think about it anymore, they might actually generate some interest in it.”

By pricing its Linux license fee in the same range as its UnixWare license, SCO may prompt Linux users to demand that it first prove its allegations, King said. “The enterprises that are deeply invested in Linux are going to pull out their slide rule and say, ‘OK, prove it’.”

For those users, SCO is offering an additional incentive. A single processor server license will jump to US$1,399 after Oct. 15, Stowell said.

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