back to article Novell won't pull a SCO

Yes, a judge has confirmed that Novell owns the copyrights to the Unix operating system, but that doesn't mean the company plans to start suing people for using Linux. It will leave such behavior to companies that don't own the copyrights. Like SCO. "We have absolutely no intention of using our Unix copyright ownership to …


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  1. Juhani Vehvilainen

    One good reason for not pulling an SCO...

    ... just _might_ be that there's still absolutely no reason to believe that Linux violates anyones copyright. A bunch mostly invalid software patents, possibly, but copyright, no. Why the hell would it, the point of it being that a bunch of geeks wanted to see if they could build the thing themselves (and they did).

  2. Ian Michael Gumby

    Are you daft?

    Novell owns SuSE.

    So it would be an act of mental and legal masturbation were then to "sue" Linux.

  3. Luke


    Good old novell...

    Hmmm... Does that mean Novell could sue SCO over SCO Unix?

  4. Morely Dotes

    More to the point...

    Will those businesses which paid SCO "licensing fees" based on SCO's claims of copyright be getting refunds? Or will they have to sue SCO, or file criminal complaints for fraud and extortion?

  5. Greg Nelson

    And A Fashion Hint!

    There's ample circumstantial material to suggest MS may have aided SCO by way of an attack on Linux, and, now more importantly, MS has crawled into bed with Novell. The MS/Novell tryst comes just as the SCO attack has failed in the courts. Coincidence? I don't think so!

    It's painfully obvious that there's a massive conspiracy to bring GNU/Linux down hard and for good. The signs are everywhere. Those of us trying to get out the warning are being ostracized and stifled. Of course the government's involved if only in their covert actions to replace tinfoil by, all but ineffectual, aluminum foil. I suspect my tinfoil has been compromised and its manufacturer may be complicit. Things are so bad I've taken to wearing my tinfoil only under my hat, as all the best counter conspiracy agents do. I'm thinking of maybe some kinda surgical implant.

    Just as an aside if you who brave the direct, onslaught of these conspirators do choose to wear your tinfoil proudly for all to see could you please see to it that it's not all wrinkly. It should be smooth, seamless and pristine otherwise it makes the rest of us look bad.

  6. Ole Juul

    Why didn't Novell defend it's IP before this case?

    Novell has known all along that it owns the UNIX trademark. Aparently it was right in the agrement and no court case should have been nescesary. The judge just looked at the paperwork and said it was simply a matter of law and implied that SCO would have known all along. I wonder why Novell hasn't pressed charges before this case came up. Maby I'm expecting things to happen too fast, but as of right now you can still see the SCO company profile advertised on Reuters as:

    "The SCO Group, Inc. owns the UNIX operating system technology and is a provider of UNIX-based products and services."

    Surely this cannot go on for much longer, can it? I guess you can't trust Reuters for this kind of information.

  7. stolennomenclature

    microsoft and novell

    Interesting how Microsoft initially backed SCO (financially) when it looked like SCO were the owners of the Unix copyrights. Then later when SCO was foundering in the courts and it seemed likely that Novell would be found to be the Unix copyright owners, Microsoft struck up a cosy deal with Novell.

    I just wonder what Novells vow is actually worth in the face of Microsofts persuasive billions and the smooth talking of the softly spoken Ballmer in the back rooms.

    Having said that, it also seems fairly clear that Linux has not copied Unix copyrighted code (at least not in any significant way) so appears to be safe on that front in the sense of actual legality, but perhaps not so safe from a carefully orchestrated FUD campaign.

  8. Aubry Thonon

    And in further news...

    SCO gets indicted under the RICO act for its "pay us money now or we sue you later" tactics.

    <yeah, right>

  9. Chris

    Novell *could* do an SCO

    Although I do (perhaps naively) believe Novell's claim that they won't do an SCO, I do see a potential reason for them doing it.

    The fact that they now own Suse is very much the reason. By suing the Linux community they could force it to either licence the code or brow-beat them into using their kosher version of Suse Linux, which of course is also 'safe' from MS IP litigation.

    However, the backlash they would receive from the community (as SCO discovered) if they were ever to consider this is more than enough of a disincentive (for the time being).

  10. milktwosugars

    Does MS have Unix code?

    I seem to remember reading that Windows has chunks of Unix code buried within it, especially the Network part of the code (forgetting the 'Dos comes from Unix-cp/m' rumour). How much would Microsoft owe if it was found to be true and Novell sued, but of course I'm forgetting that MS and Novell have come to an understanding, win win Microsoft.

    Overall though, well done Novell, you have my vote.

  11. Mo

    Legitimate licenses

    Under the original SCO-Novell agreement, SCO is charged with collecting licensing fees, as it did from Microsoft and Sun.

    What it didn't do—and was supposed to—was to turn 75% of those revenues over to Novell. SCO's just supposed to be an agent.

    Sun and Microsoft are in the clear; SCO isn't going to be a target of Sun/MS litigation unless they believe they were duped into buying licenses they didn't need and can prove as much. The only shizzle is that SCO owes Novell more money than SCO has, by some considerable margin.

  12. Phil Koenig

    Microsoft and Unix Code

    The code you're thinking of was actually BSD code, used in the IP stack.

    That was for Windows 2000, and probably Windows 2000v2. (otherwise known as "Windows XP") I think Vista may have something different under the hood.

    The BSD license is very well-loved by corporate organizations because they can use the code for pretty much anything they want, without having to contribute any of their changes back to anything. So it probably doesn't matter much that Windoze has BSD code in it, because the BSD crowd doesn't care about such things. (BSD was specifically created by University of California at Berkeley to get around AT&T Unix copyrights, so it is not legally encumbered in the way that "traditional" Unix variants are.)

  13. More

    The Root of Windows

    Back in the early '90s, Microsoft Windows NT was done by the team who made VMS and was based on the microkernel project Mach3, which is a kernel that is meant to have the functionalities of the UNIX kernel but has a smaller size. As all recent Micorsoft Windows are based on Microsoft Windows NT, they are also "based on UNIX technologies".

  14. MrWeeble

    re: Does MS have Unix code?

    Yes, well known fact that the MS networking stack is derived from the BSD networking stack (at least it was, they may have rewritten it at some point), however since that is licensed under a BSD license, which is regarded as being clean of IP issues following USL v. BSDi.

    The Unix copyrights are very complicated with many forks and branches

  15. Lyndon Hills

    @Does MS have Unix Code?

    I think you may be thinking of the old IP stack, which came (perfectly legally) from BSD. Also MS have had Unix licenses of varying sorts for years, they even had their own brand Xenix back in the 80's.

  16. Demian Phillips

    Couyright is not Trademark (US LAW)

    Novell owns the copyrights to UNIX (thats what the court says).

    The trademark UNIX is owned by the Open Group(, they are not The SCO Group or Novell.

    Copyrights do not need to be defended to be kept valid (if a known infraction is let continue damages can be affected in court). Trademarks must be defended or they risk falling into common use.

  17. Ole Juul

    @Demian Phillips

    Thanks for the clarification of copyrights and trademarks, but still, isn't it wrong for SCO (or Reuters) to be saying "SCO owns the UNIX operating system technology"?

  18. Christopher E. Stith

    How soon we forget

    Here's a short history of much of the SCO and MS Unix mess. It's not guaranteed complete or 100% accurate, but it's mostly right.

    Microsoft had Xenix, one of the first Unix variants for x86. It had Unix licenses for developing that. Xenix became, get this, Santa Cruz Operation's Unix. Santa Cruz Operation later became SCO (the first SCO). Microsoft kept a license for some of the code, and they can do whatever they like with it. This might be part of the stuff they paid SCO for, and they might have licensed SCO-developed code written after the sales, too.

    SCO also bought certain rights to Unix from Novell which Novell had bought from Unix System Labs (formerly AT&T's Bell Labs division's Unix division). Apparently, the copyrights were not part of what SCO bought. Neither was an unlimited power to sue over rights in Unix, with Novell able to waive (at Novell's discretion) any action SCO brings in regards to Novell's property.

    Caldera was largely a Novell spin-off. Several people from Novell started Caldera, and it was a Linux company. It merged with (it was actually the buyer I think) SCO. They were known for a time after the buyout as Caldera, and the Caldera people where largely running the show. Much of what old SCO had bought from Novell was bought on a "conditional fee" -- they only kept it under conditions of the contract. One of those conditions was that control of the company could not change without voiding large swathes of the contract. Novell would have had to approve the changes in ownership and such in order to waive the nullification, and that never happened. So Caldera had even fewer rights than the old SCO did.

    Then, Caldera decided to revive the SCO name. They tried to claim they were old SCO, but they were clearly Caldera, purchaser of old SCO, just changing the label on the package. They were actually still distributing Caldera Linux under the GPL after switching business plans to suing IBM for fun and profit.

    Microsoft may have been pulling something dirty by buying all those new licenses at that moment, or they may have done a review of their needs in light of SCO's newly litigious nature. They probably did have something dirty to do with BayStar Capital's cash infusion to SCOX, though, and also with the badly mangled reports from the Alexis de Toqueville Institute (ADTI) that tried just too damn hard to support SCO's story in the press.

    Now, we're back to SCO being nobody, Novell clearly the Unix system V copyright holder, and Microsoft being told that they bought a bunch of licenses from a company that didn't have the right to sell them except when acting as an agent of Novell. It turns out the agreement wasn't even the 75% Mo mentions, but that SCO would give all 100% to Novell, and Novell would disburse a 5% handling fee of sorts back to SCO. SCO never paid Novell that money, so Microsoft's licenses it bought from SCO were basically a confidence game. It's no wonder it wanted to talk to Novell.

    Even if Microsoft had been just trying to prop up SCO for the suit, it couldn't really admit that, so whatever licenses it paid SCO for it would have had to negotiate with Novell over. If MS claimed they needed the licenses, they needed them to be from Novell. Microsoft can't just say that they already paid, because they paid the wrong party. Just like Microsoft people don't care if you buy Windows from Bobby C.D. Burner unless they get their money, Novell's people don't care if what you bought from SCO if they didn't get their money.

    So the MS/Novell IP deal does look bad where Linux is concerned, but it was probably going to happen over just Unix, and Linux got tacked onto the order. Novell already owned the Unix copyrights, and hasn't sued anyone for using Linux.

    To say Novell <em>can't</em> sue because they distribute Linux is still silly, though, because Caldera Linux was distributed before and even after the filing of the suit against IBM. SCO obviously did sue after and while distributing Linux. I doubt Novell will sue, though. They were mostly sitting on Unix before. They're pretty much just sitting on it now. They have Netware and the have Linux. They have the Netware browsing/sharing/printing services, Zenworks, Groupwise, and Bordermanager that run on both now AFAICT. Novell is a founding member of the Open Invention Network, which promises to allow anyone to use the group's patents so long as those users agree not to assert patents against Linux. I'd say that tit for tat, Novell is still pretty good for Linux for the present.

  19. David

    Did Novell do the right thing?

    If Novell didn't do the cross licensing deal, then they possibly could have done a SCO on Microsoft.

    It's too late now, but they could have ended up with billions. Perhaps that is why Microsoft were so happy to pay for that deal.

    Imagine being awarded a royalty on every version of Windows because it contains UNIX code. Remember that a similar thing happened to Microsoft recently over browser plugins. The copyright holder got something in the order of half a billion. So how much could have Novell got if their stuff is in Windows?

    But then again, how could you prove it. Windows is welded shut.

    Whatever the case, I would love to see Microsoft get mud on their face for the way they financed SCO.

  20. Christopher E. Stith

    prove there's code in a closed-source project?

    @David: If Novell needed to prove it, they would have to prove it the same way SCO tried to prove that stuff went from Dynix and AIX into Linux -- Novell would have to ask a judge to order Microsoft to show Novell and the court the code. That's part of the discovery process.

  21. Hayden Clark Silver badge

    And then MS buys Novell...

    ...and UNIX is owned by Microsoft.

    just thinking about it makes me break out in a clammy sweat.

  22. Carlos

    They were sure?

    >In 1995, Novell sold its Unix trademarks and other assets to SCO, and SCO was quite sure that the deal included the Unix copyrights as well - so sure that it started waving them angrily at the Linux industry.

    Of course SCO was quite sure they owned the copyrights... Apart of course from Darl McBride, Chris Sontag and Ralph Yarro* who (according the the court ruling) "continually contacted Novell in late 2002 and early 2003 requesting that Novell change the APA to include the transfer of Unix copyrights and asking Novell to transfer the Unix copyrights to SCO". Which particular part of SCO was quite sure the deal included the Unix copyrights?

    * Darl McBride, Chris Sontag and Ralph Yarro are the three principals of SCO.

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