UPDATE: SCO sues Linux user, Unix licensee

Auto parts chain Autozone Inc. is the first Linux user to be sued by The SCO Group Inc. for allegedly violating the company’s intellectual property (IP), SCO said Wednesday.

As of 12:30 p.m. EST, Autzone had not yet seen a copy of the suit filed by SCO and could not comment on the case, said Gina Heard, a spokesperson for Autozone in Memphis, Tenn.

In November 2003, SCO announced it was only 90 days away from taking action against a Linux user. After filing this suit in Las Vegas, SCO has now made good on its promise.

SCO, which claims it owns the rights to Unix, is suing IBM Corp. for US$5 billion for allegedly illegally contributing Unix code to the Linux project. SCO believes it owns IP rights to Linux and is insisting Linux users pay a licensing fee for use of the open source operating system.

Darl McBride, CEO of SCO said during a conference call on Wednesday that Autozone is just the first of many end-users to be sued and likened SCO’s battle against IBM to the cases between the Recording Industry Assocation of America (RIAA) against individuals who downloaded music for free.

Additionally, SCO is embroiled in a suit against Novell Inc., contesting Novell’s assertions that it retains some rights to Unix. It has also launched a case against Red Hat Inc., one of the world’s leading Linux vendors.

Both Red Hat and Novell have offered indemnification to its Linux users along with hardware vendor Hewlett-Packard Co.

Autozone was one of the Fortune 1000 companies SCO sent a letter to in May 2003 outlining SCO’s case against IBM and encouraged those companies to buy SCO IP licenses for Linux, said Blake Stowell, a spokesperson for SCO in Lindon, Utah. SCO suspects Autozone of running Linux on thousands of servers but Stowell would not say which Linux distributions or versions of the Linux kernel Autozone is running.

“[Between] May and today we’ve had a number of communications with [Autozone] and it ultimately came down to that there were copyright infringements in Linux and [it] was unwilling to take out a SCO copyright license,” Stowell said. “Unfortunately, litigation is what we had to resort to [in an attempt] to try to resolve this situation with them.”

So far, only one company has admitted to buying a SCO IP license for Linux. EV1Servers.Net, a division of Everyones Internet in Houston, on Monday announced the IP license purchase. SCO claims other companies have purchased the license but fear backlash from the open source community if they publicize it. McBride would not say exactly how many firms have bought the IP license but indicated it was less than 50.

Additionally, SCO filed a suit Wednesday against Daimler Chrysler Corp. in Auburn Hills, Mich., a company claims is in violation of its SCO Unix license. Daimler-Chrysler took out a Unix license several years ago, Stowell said. In December 2003, SCO sent letters to all of its Unix licensees — about 3,000 — requesting they certify that they were in compliance with their licenses. McBride said less than half of those 3,000 licensees responded to the December letter.

Daimler Chrysler has refused to comply with SCO’s request for certification, Stowell said. That’s why this Unix licensee has been targeted, he added. SCO does not know if this company has in fact violated its Unix license.

By press time on Wednesday Daimler Chrysler had not seen the suit SCO filed against it and thus could not comment on the case, the company said.

However, Autozone and Daimler Chrysler aren’t alone in their fights against SCO. The Open Source Development Lab (OSDL), an organization dedicated to accelerating the adoption of Linux, based in Beaverton, Ore. in January set up a legal defense fee for any user sued by SCO. So far the OSDL has raised US$3 million and is aiming to increase that to US$10 million.

Stuart Cohen, CEO of the OSDL said Wednesday that the OSDL has notified both Autozone and Daimler Chrysler informing them that they qualify for that assistance but the companies have not yet responded.

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