Sunday, August 12, 2007

Legal cloud lifted from Linux kernel

United States District Court Judge Dale Kimball has issued a 102-page ruling on the summary judgment motions in SCO v. Novell. The bottom line is that the court concludes that Novell is the owner of the UNIX and UnixWare Copyrights and that SCO is obligated to recognize Novell's waiver of SCO's claims against IBM and Sequent This means that the biggest legal cloud hanging over Linux, the Free/Open Source kernel of the GNU-Linux operating system has been lifted. SCO had alleged that IBM had included, without SCO’s authorisation, some code from the Unix operating system in the donations and contributions IMB had made to the Linux kernel. SCO considered itself to be the copyright owner for UNIX and UnixWare and had sued IBM. Novell then claimed to be the Copyright owner for UNIX and UnixWare, and suits and countersuits also flew between Novell and SCO. The ruling by Judge Kimball settles the Copyright ownership issue (subject to appeal, of course). It remains an open issue (that is, an unproven contention) whether any Copyrighted UNIX or Unixware code was contributed to Linux by IBM. I consider this to be an important legal victor for Free & Open Source Software (FOSS). The basic infrastructure of the internet and of the myriad other interlocking networks should be based on open standards, open protocols and open operating systems. For one company, Microsoft in this case, to control the dominant operating system and many key application programs, and to try to impose proprietary standards for documents and communications is a serious threat to liberty. We should not forget that Microsoft is a convicted abusive monopolist in the US courts, and that it has achieved comparable ‘status’ in the EU at the hands of the Competition Commissioner. To permit the Internet and other key communication systems and protocols to be based on proprietary standards and formats, and to be run on closed, proprietary operating systems would, in my view, be as ludicrous as permitting the letter ‘e’ to be copyrighted. Three cheers for Judge Kimball!


ManaNY said...

Can't agree more!

Tony Locke said...

I too am glad that the SCO case is over, although I never really saw it as a fundamental threat to FOSS. FOSS is bigger than Linux, and we could all happily switch to FreeBSD and nobody would notice the difference.

No, the thing that worries me is software patents. Richard Stallman explains the problem well. In the EU we have the FFII campaigning against EU software patents.