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MS to buy Unix from SCO

I'm generally neutral in the Microsoft vs Sun / Open Source / Linux / Unix / The World debates. If I had to label myself, I guess I would be considered somewhat pro-Microsoft.

But even I think this is bad news for the industry as a whole:

http://biz.yahoo.com/djus/030519/0114000182_1.html

Especially if Microsoft continues SCO's current path of litigation.

Nick
Monday, May 19, 2003

Didn't MS have the rights to Unix in the 80s in their Xenix OS?

Matthew Lock
Monday, May 19, 2003

One license/contract gives different rights from the next.

Li-fan Chen
Monday, May 19, 2003

Ha ha ha!
This is funny, man are they sly...

Jeez, you gotta admire them. They are like Osama bin Laden hiding in a cave. You know he's a dangerous lunatic responsible for the deaths of thousands but you have a certain fascination with the whole cave routine and the funny clothes.

It's funny since recently I have been wondering how long before the windows kernel switches over to Unix -- you know, the whole thing how Microsoft does a big 'me too' on whatever Apple comes up with. I never expected it would happen so soon, but the fact is they are right on schedule. MS isn't anything if they aren't predictable in their own special way.

Tony Chang
Monday, May 19, 2003

Okay, here's the one I think is funny.  SCO has a $1B lawsuit against IBM for intellectual property (IP) infringement.  Their claim is that IBM borrowed technology from Unix (which IBM had licensed from SCO) and put it into Linux. SCO hired David Boies to head up their legal team in the lawsuit. That's right, the same David Boies that lead the Justice Department's antitrust case against Microsoft.

If anyone's saying WTF!?! about this, it's gotta be him.

Nick
Monday, May 19, 2003

Never did like Caldera.

Them and SuSe. Fair weather supporters of OpenSource.

tapiwa
Monday, May 19, 2003

Tony, you're talking utter drivel. How are Microsoft responsible for the death of thousands? Why would they switch to the UNIX kernel when there's nothing wrong with the Windows NT kernel?

John Topley
Monday, May 19, 2003

Didn't MS have a version of Unix called Xenix in the 70's... which they then sold to SCO?

Duncan Smart
Monday, May 19, 2003

Are MS doing this to make use of the Unix technology, or to increate FUD by legitimising the case against IBM?

Ged Byrne
Monday, May 19, 2003

Microsoft licenced Unix as Xenix and shipped more licences than SCO at the time.  For a while there was considerable pressure inside MS to switch the OS base to Xenix, for whatever reason (umm Windows), that didn't happen.

I can't remember if MS actually sold the licensing rights to SCO or not I ahve a feeling they kept hold of them for a long time.  Novell bought Unix in around 92 and then in the wave of putsches and realignments it was hived off to SCO.

In the late 90's Microsoft bought Open Unix, supposedly to kill it.  It did appear on one or two MSDN issues and then disappeared.

The idea of buying 'Unix' was always a case of the Emperor's New Clothes.  It was always a particular flavour of Unix that was being bought, the idea that there is some true Unix has long gone.  Microsoft might claim that  the purchase is a case of providing succour and becoming Keeper of the Flame of the One True Unix but it looks more likely a case of closing the door on yet another competitor no matter how enfeebled.

Simon Lucy
Monday, May 19, 2003

Maybe they're just buying because (amongst other things) inevitably they will be sued as well (justifiably or not), and buying now is cheaper than fighting/setteling.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, May 19, 2003

How to defeat Linux:
1 - Buy SCO's rights
2 - Begin litigation, but never actually litigate
3 - Send out the sales force warning all Microsoft customers that they need to "protect themselves" and stay away from Linux until this is resolved.
4 - Keep the case in court for 5 years.

Bye bye, see ya...

WonderingWhat
Monday, May 19, 2003

My understanding is not that MS wish to buy SCO, but that they have bought licences to SCO's claimed IP within UNIX.

treefrog
Monday, May 19, 2003

Maybe I'm  just naive, but I don't really see how this affects Linux too much.

Regardless of what MS says or does with their Unix, the Linux crowd is gonna keep pushing forward.

Mark Hoffman
Monday, May 19, 2003

Unless I'm missing something, it seems that all they're doing is buying a license to the patents, not the actual rights themselves....

John Rosenberg
Monday, May 19, 2003

Reading the article it says (IN the body) that Microsoft is LICENSING SCO's UNIX.  I say that this is a cover the rear move by Microsoft Legal then a Lets kill Linux move.  Not that this is going to make it easy for Linux Distros( as the Article says). 
Buying UNIX outright and continuing the litegation would Kill MS in the EU and give credence to the States that want to push ahead with anti-Trust here (in the US).  So I would not buy much into them licensing UNIX.

A Software Build Guy
Monday, May 19, 2003

An oddball thought:.:

I know that MS has shipped / still ships its "unix utils" (I can't right now recall the name.. "Unix services for NT or something like that?"), and also, that the NT kernel has a POSIX subsystem somewhere on its guts...

So maybe MS is buyng a licence to SCO Unix so they can avoid being sued by SCO? I mean, there _could_ be some IP now on SCO's hands inside MS products, back from the time MS had Xenix.-...

Just my 0.002 cents...

Javier Jarava
Monday, May 19, 2003

Yikes.  If you want FUD, it's here in this thread.  What exactly prompts someone to consider an article important enough to post about when they obviously haven't bothered to read or pay any attention to?

SomeBody
Monday, May 19, 2003

Microsoft's Interix and Services for Unix are Microsoft's are the products that are thier UNIX toolkit for Windows NT/2000/XP (now product, they rolled them together for Services for Unix 3.0).  Interix creates a POSIX 2 Complient subsystem and Services for UNIX offers a UNIX tools for CMD.exe.  (I use 'em and like them).

A Software Build Guy
Monday, May 19, 2003

While MSFT might publicly be licensing a Unix portfolio from SCO, one has to inquire "specifically what?"  It says "network interoperability" - would that be LDAP? NFS?  Unix tools like ls?

It escapes me what possibly they could mean, just as it escapes me as to what precisely SCO thinks they have that MSFT or anyone else would want to license.  At very best, I'm guessing some x86 architecture implementation, which if patented would be close to expiration if not already.

But, IF SCO has a legitimate case.  Suppose that some code - perhaps even modules - made it into the Linux kernel.  The beautiful  elegance of the situation is that during the time that Caldera (now SCO) bought the Unix intellectual property, they continued to market and develop their Linux product and even formed the "United Linux" consortium (nearly defunct).  So, whether knowingling or unknowingly, SCO during this interim period had control of Unix IP, and by contributing and distributing to the infringing body of code, by way of the terms of the GPL, contributed their rights to the offending code as free software.

This will be the ultimate test of GPL legitimacy and enforcement.  The beauty is tha a wacko like Stallman trumps one of the wildest corporate land grabs ever attempted.  Yeehah.

Nat Ersoz
Monday, May 19, 2003

Another, very interesting POW on the licensing deal:

http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=9559

""
Is Microsoft going to release a version of UNIX? After all that time and money burned on Windows NT, XP, and CE? Hardly. Instead, Microsoft can feed money into cash-strapped SCO so they can keep their lawsuits burning for a few more years and see if that scares away anyone from Linux. If they get really lucky, SCO's suits put a dent into corporate Linux through sheer FUD, thereby selling more Microsoft servers. While the big boys – HP and IBM – have their own versions of UNIX, they had been rapidly swinging their boats to Linux.

If necessary, Microsoft can keep its hands clean of the firefight by continuing to "expand" its license agreement with SCO by writing more checks. Since Microsoft has more cash on hand than any three companies would know what to do with, they can simply feed the anti-Linux effort with a couple of days interest per month. If SCO loses, Microsoft can write off the expenses as noise.

This is realpolitik at its best. If Microsoft bought SCO outright and then started to sue IBM and other Linux companies outright, well, that might be a little much even for the U.S. Department of Justice to stomach, much less the Fortune 500. And the EU would likely use it as the final straw to put heavier sanctions onto Microsoft in Europe. So, in the best French tradition, Microsoft makes a license agreement for products they have little intention of using, SCO continues in court, and the Fortune 500 grumble at the back door war.
"""

Food for thought...

Javier Jarava
Monday, May 19, 2003

I agree with Javier.  It would have simply looked bad for Microsoft to gift SCO with millions for the lawsuit.  Unpleasant matters like that can be handled with a licensing fee.  Looks legit that way and causes even more wonderment.

SOM
Same Old Microsoft

Mike
Monday, May 19, 2003

The reason MS is admirable like Osama bin Laden is admirable is not from a moral or ethics standpoint, but from a military strategy standpoint. Both are clever and dangerous opponents who are difficult, but not impossible, to mount an opposition to, due to their cleverness. Another example would be Clinton's clever manuevering during his impeachment, distracting the public by coming out of left field and doing stuff like bombing Afghanistan and Sudan.

From an ethical standpoint, all these characters are up to no good, but part of their tactic is they are so bold and outrageous people are entertained by their antics rather than virulently opposing them and fighting with every ounce of their being like they should.

I wouldn't put money on GPL arguments -- the GPL as a viral contract is totally unenforceable under US law, something which MS is perfectly aware of.

Tony Chang
Monday, May 19, 2003

Please explain "unenforceable".  Why is it unenforceable?  Also, in this case, the GPL will not be enforced in a pre-emptive manner, but will be used to guard against the suit brought by SCO.  As well, I expect IBM to "rip them a new one" during discovery.

Nat Ersoz
Monday, May 19, 2003

http://www.opensource.org/sco-vs-ibm.html

A most interesting read:

SCO alleges (Paragraph 57): “When SCO acquired the UNIX assets from Novell in 1995, it acquired rights in and to all (1) underlying, original UNIX software code developed by AT&T Bell Laboratories.”

The exact terms of final settlement, and much of the judicial record, were sealed at Novell's insistence. The key provisions are, however, described in Twenty Years of Berkeley Unix: From AT&T-Owned to Freely Redistributable, [McKusick99]. Only three files out of eighteen thousand in the distribution were found to be the licit property of Novell and removed. The rest were ruled to be freely redistributable, and continue to form the basis of the open-source BSD distributions today.

That is, ten years ago at a time when Linux was in its infancy, the courts already found the contributions of other parties to what is now UnixWare to be so great, and Novell's proprietary entitlement in the code so small, that Novell's lawyers had to settle for a minor, face-saving gesture from the University of California or walk away with nothing at all.

Nat Ersoz
Monday, May 19, 2003

The viral theory is that if GPL code so much as touches other code even if unintentional, the other code joins the collective and Resistance is Futile since those are the only terms under which licgensing is offered.

However, contract law requires that contracts be both reasonable, based on fair exchange, negotiable, and intentional.

So if you accept the GPL and explicitly apply the GPL to all the infected code, yeah you're under the GPL.

But if you didn't realize what was going on, you'll say there was no negotiation (cos there wasn't), the exchange was not fair since you had to give up so much just to get some tiny GPL file, and you didn't even realize that Carlos the new guy had pasted some GPL code into your codebase. The idea that under these circumstances the entire codebase touched has gone GPL is legally without foundation. All that has happened is that you are in violation of copyright. Likely all that will happen in court is you'll have to pay a reasonable fee for use of the code based on actual damages/loss, and/or remove it from your code base.

Tony Chang
Tuesday, May 20, 2003

"Is Microsoft going to release a version of UNIX?"

They already have:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/sfu/default.asp

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Tony Chang - your argument that there was no negotiation would also apply to the "Click Through" licenses on packaged software. I think there are a lot of companies who would rather that that box was not opened.


Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Tony Chang,
I think you have misinterpred the GPL. The GPL says that if you combine GPL code with non-GPL you must licence the combination under the GPL.

So if Carlos the New Guy puts GPL code into your codebase then you must release the whole thing under the GPL. Howver, suppose this is a mistake by Carlos the New Guy. You may remove the offending GPL'd code, then release your code under a non-GPL licence.

Just because your code once touched some GPL'd code does not make your code permenantly GPL'd - you may licence it as you wish - it is only code combined with GPL'd code that should be GPL'd itself.

I think you conclusions in the scenario you present are right, and this is how the FSF has played things. There is a great deal of difference legally (AFAIK) on how the law sees things, depending on intent. Accidental violation of the GPL by Carlos the New Guy is very differnt to deliberate flouting of it decided by half a dozen VPs.

Best regards,

treefrog

treefrog
Tuesday, May 20, 2003

[The GPL says that if you combine GPL code with non-GPL you must licence the combination under the GPL]


I'd like to take your argument a little further and stress the word _combine_. If you actually take the source code and compile it in your closed source program then that is a violation. On the other hand if you simply link (dynamically)to a precompiled GPL application with your closed source app then you are not in violation providing that if you distribute the GPL app that you release the source code and abide by it's license.


A few quotes about the GPL from Lawrence Rosen, the General Counsel for the Open Source Initiative:

"This fear of software infection reminds me of the early days of the AIDS epidemic. "Be careful of kissing or hugging," it was said, "because you can get the disease even from casual contact." It took years to calm people down. For people irrationally afraid of the GPL, I also urge calm. You can't catch the GPL simply by touching software"

"Consider the scenario where the Linux operating system, a GPL-licensed program, loads and executes a proprietary program. The Linux program is not modified; it is merely used for the purpose for which it was designed. The proprietary program does not “contain” nor is it “derived from” Linux. Linux does not infect the proprietary program, and the proprietary program does not become subject to the GPL"


This is a good read to clear up any doubts about what the GPL covers and what it does not: www.rosenlaw.com/html/GPL.PDF

Ian Stallings
Tuesday, May 20, 2003

"There are subtle differences among the courts about the meaning of the term "derivative work." If you are a software developer, you should review the specific characteristics of your software with a knowledgeable attorney to see if, based on the case law in your jurisdiction, your "combined program" could be deemed a derivative work of a GPL program."

Yes, I find that document very reasuring.

Now the AID reference, that's a nice strawman.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Yet another excellent read:
http://news.com.com/2010-1071_3-1007758.html?tag=f%20d_nc_1

SCO's lawsuit against IBM is not a patent case. The fundamental patents on Unix would have expired long ago, while SCO's handful of patents aren't significant. The main allegation is that trade secrets of Unix have been copied into Linux. To win a trade secret case, you have to prove the information was secret. Detailed knowledge of Unix has been available in libraries for 30 years, and a full Unix specification was distributed by the U.S. government as part of its POSIX standards.

If there's been any copying, it's much more likely that the publicly available GNU/Linux code has been copied into the secret SCO source. To prove otherwise, SCO would have to present evidence regarding the date its code was written. The creation dates for Linux code aren't in question because CD-ROM archives exist of all stages of its development and have been sold to thousands of witnesses.

Nat Ersoz
Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Don't forget that even WITHOUT the GPL, copyright and trade secret law makes redistribution "infectious" in a different way.

Suppose IBM gives you the source code to whatever software product that they sells you, but the source code is not for redistribution, just as the binaries are not to be redistributed. If you take that source code, copy it and distribute it WITH or WITHOUT modifications, you could be found guilty of copyright infringement.

If you get your hands on Microsoft's source code by signing a nondisclosure agreement under their "shared source" program, and you then distribute that source code with or without modifications or additions, you could be charged for trade secret violations and/or copyright infringement.

What the GPL essentially says is that as long as you redistribute the GPL'd code verbatim, or GPL the modified version when you distribute it, you are given permission to make and distribute copies.  So if the GPL is found invalid, the conditions governing distribution of GPL'd code would revert to what is stated in copyright law, in which case distributing copies of GPL source code would make you liable for copyright infringement.

T. Norman
Wednesday, May 21, 2003

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