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January 4, 2004

Torvalds and Novell dismiss SCO’s copyright claims

The Linux community has hit back at SCO Group Inc's claims of copyright ownership of Linux operating system code with Linux creator Linus Torvalds stating that he wrote the code SCO has identified and Novell Inc registering copyrights to Unix.

By CBR Staff Writer

The moves are a response to Lindon, Utah-based SCO’s adoption of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to back up its claims that Linux users are responsible for claimed copyright violation in the Linux kernel.

On Monday the company revealed that it had written to hundreds of businesses running Linux outlining SCO’s claimed evidence of copyright infringement in Linux and informing them that they are in violation of the DMCA anti-piracy legislation.

However, Linux creator Linus Torvalds has dismissed that claim. Writing to the Groklaw technology legal news and research web site, Torvalds said that after a first quick look at the listed files he was confident that those he had reviewed appeared in the very first 0.01 version of Linux, and were written by himself.

Tovalds added that he was even a bit ashamed of the quality of some of the code and would not admit to have written it had SCO not claimed ownership of it.

Meanwhile, hostilities between SCO and another former owner of the Unix System V code, Novell, appear to be back on again after the Provo, Utah-based network software vendor confirmed that it had applied for and received copyright registrations pertaining to Unix.

Novell fought out a war of words with SCO in the summer after claiming that it, and not SCO, was the rightful owner of the Unix System V patents and copyrights. Novell acquired the Unix code from AT&T in 1993 before selling it to the Santa Cruz Operation Inc in 1995. They were then sold to Caldera Systems Inc in 2000 before Caldera changed its name to SCO.

The company claimed in the summer that it had retained the copyrights to Unix, although it later appeared to drop its claim when SCO produced a contract amendment to the 1995 deal. The amendment appears to support SCO’s claim that ownership of certain copyrights for Unix did transfer to SCO in 1996, said Novell in June.

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Now though the company has repeated its claim. Novell believes that it owns the copyrights in Unix, it said in a statement, before announcing that it had received copyright protection relating to the operating system. The company also detailed letters to SCO, dated later in June and in early August, in which it stated its position.

Amendment 2 to the Asset Purchase Agreement appears to support a claim that Santa Cruz Operation had the right to acquire some copyrights from Novell, wrote Novell general counsel, Joseph LaSala, in the first letter.

Under the Asset Purchase Agreement and Amendment No. 2, copyrights were not transferred to Santa Cruz Operation unless SCO could demonstrate that such a right was required for [SCO] to exercise the rights granted to it in the APA, he added in the second, before arguing that such a demonstration had not occurred.

Novell has also published a letter from SCO general counsel, Ryan Tibbitts, dated September 10 in which he acknowledged the letters but disagreed with Novell’s analysis and conclusion. Your current interpretation of the agreements… ignores certain provisions of the relevant documents and does not consider the agreements between Novell and SCO as a whole, he wrote.

For its part SCO received US copyright registrations for the Unix System V code in July, a prerequisite to its attempts to enforce its copyright claims.

Novell’s registration of copyrights increases the likelihood that the two companies will end up in court. SCO has already threatened to take Novell to court to block its proposed acquisition of Linux distributor SuSE Linux AG.

This article is based on material originally produced by ComputerWire.

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