Canada’s Linux users team up to fight SCO

A group of Canadian Linux users say they’re not planning to sit idle and wait for The SCO Group Inc. to enforce copyright fees for access to the open-source software.

That’s why several of them banded together last month to officially launch the Canadian Linux Interests Coalition (CLIC), contesting that SCO’s legal threats regarding the Linux source code are unsubstantiated.

CLIC said it will not remain silent while SCO “disparages Linux, the work of thousands of contributors worldwide.”

Recently, SCO filed a suit against IBM Corp., claiming that the Linux kernel contains programming code, which is owned by SCO, and the company is attempting to collect royalties on Linux installations.

Many Linux professionals have an unfavourable view of SCO’s actions of late, said Shad Young, spokesperson for CLIC in Ottawa, and that much of what SCO is claiming is not valid.

The group maintains that charging royalties for Linux use is comparable to extortion.

“We will fight this as long as we have to,” Young said. “Ultimately what we would like to see happen is for SCO to disclose the source code. The reason being is because once they do that, any potential [intellectual property] conflicts that are in the code would be resolved very quickly.” He added that SCO’s refusal so far to disclose the alleged rogue code is “disturbing…given that the source code of the Linux kernel is, and has always been, publicly disclosed.”

CLIC’s immediate plans involve giving Canadian Linux users and professionals as much “honest and valuable” information as possible, Young said. The coalition is in the process of building a Web portal, which would provide information on SCO, Linux in general, as well as Canadian copyright laws.

“We are trying to engage some legal counsel to see what legal recourse, if any, we have against SCO,” he said, but added that direct legal action is not something CLIC is pursuing at the moment. The reality of it is, there has been little in the way of legal action that could effectively be taken by anybody up to this time as SCO has fought this battle in the media and not in court,” Young explained.

However, if SCO begins to threaten legal action against Canadian Linux users, CLIC will counter with a legal response. The group is now actively looking into the feasibility of an injunction or another “legal remedy” against SCO that would “prevent them from attempting to extort licensing fees from any Canadian Linux user until they have made their case in court and proved that there is copyrighted material in the Linux kernel that its developers both knew about and attempted to hide,” he added.

Rainer Heilke, secretary and newsletter editor for Edmonton Unix Users Group (EUUG), was unsure whether CLIC would or could take legal action against SCO. “On what grounds?…The lawsuit at the heart of the matter hasn’t even gone to discovery yet.”

However, by the very nature of CLIC’s charter, “it would be meaningless for CLIC to sit back and do nothing about SCO’s actions,” he said.

Young also denied SCO CEO Darl McBride’s recent allegations that IBM has been quietly stage-managing the open source community’s anti-SCO efforts. “CLIC has not now, nor will it ever be funded by IBM while IBM is engaged in court action with SCO,” he said. “SCO will never be able to demonstrate that CLIC has been so funded, and any claim to the contrary is blatantly false. As for IBM’s involvement with other, similar organizations, CLIC will not speculate.”

CLIC’s Young said the group is in talks with similar groups in other countries to combine their efforts. “This is a worldwide issue, just like Linux is a worldwide effort,” he said.

In the meantime, CLIC is encouraging all Canadian businesses to continue using Linux as normal.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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