posted by Eugenia Loli on Mon 28th Apr 2003 15:48 UTC

"The SCO questionmark"
13. SCO went after IBM, now they seem to go after Linux, while they hinted that Mac OS X also uses their Unix IP. This does raise an eyebrow, as MacOSX is partly based on FreeBSD, 4.4BSD and Mach3... How does this situation affect the FreeBSD Project? Is FreeBSD using "clean" code, or are some remaining SysV code is still part of your project? Additionally, FreeBSD ships with Linux emulation libraries. Does this part of the Linux code in FreeBSD includes any claimed SCO IP?

Chuck, the FreeBSD mascot Greg 'groggy' Lehey: Technically, not at all. It's not clear what SCO's motives are, but I consider them completely unfounded in all points. The Linux source code is available to any user, and SCO themselves ship Linux source code, so it's difficult to understand how SCO can make these claims without pointing to a single instance to substantiate the claims.

It's also interesting to note that over the last few years SCO has been attempting to release more and more source code under open licenses. I was involved in an attempt to release sar a few years back, but nobody in the BSD communities was interested enough. I get the impression that new management has moved in without understanding the obligations and commitments that SCO has made in the past.

Note also that SCO's claims that IBM is stealing their SMP technology are ridiculous. SCO never had any useful SMP technology, and the implementation in Linux both predates IBM's involvement, and is also completely different from the SCO implementation.

There is some code in FreeBSD which was derived from System V. It was released specifically for this purpose, and there had never been any dispute about it. The "BSD Wars" of 1992 to 1994 were about code imported from Research UNIX, not System V. SCO (then called Caldera) released all Research UNIX code under a BSD style license in January 2002, so there is no way they could complain about this.

M. Warner Losh : The code was *NOT* derived from System V, but rather from Unix 6th and 7th edition, as well as 32V. Only the copyrights were similar to those used in System V source files. The code in question was merely blessed by USL and acknowledges as originating there by the Regents. Read here.

The settlement restricts further use and distribution of certain files in the Second Networking Release and requires that certain files in 4.4 BSD-Lite include a USL copyright notice. In addition to providing several enhancements, the new 4.4 BSD-Lite Release will replace most of the restricted files and incorporates all the agreed-upon modifications and notices. Thus, 4.4 BSD-Lite will not require a license from nor payment of royalties to USL. The University strongly recommends that 4.4 BSD-Lite be substituted for Net2.

In any event, those files with USL copyrights on them have specific permission to be distributed by the Regents of the University of California to settle thse lawsuits, with an additional agreement that Novel (and its successors) would not sue anybody basing systems on 4.4lite.

FreeBSD 2.0 base a new port from 4.4lite. It contains no code from the net2 releases that isn't in the 4.4 lite release. FreeBSD 1.x did include code that was subject to that lawsuit, but since the FreeBSD has not made that code available for years, I'd think that we'd be safe from any IP claims.

Greg 'groggy' Lehey: I do have some concern about the way in which Caldera released the software. The current litigation against IBM so completely contradicts the release last year that I can only assume that the people involved don't know about each other. We (in this case the UNIX Heritage Society) have asked SCO to put up information about the release on own web site, but so far they have not done so. A copy of the original is here. You may quote this URL if you wish.

[Linux emulation libraries threat] I don't believe so, but as I say, SCO's complaint was very vague. FreeBSD simply uses existing Linux libraries for the emulator, so I can't see any reason why the FreeBSD project should be held responsible for the content.

M. Warner Losh : SCO's claims are based on bad action by IBM. They make a copyright claim against IBM that is approximately: IBM derived AIX from System V. IBM took parts of AIX and put them into Linux. Therefore, since AIX is derived from System V, they put our IP into Linux.

The comments that they made about the Mac OS X sources are from a position of ignorance. All files in the Mac OS or FreeBSD source trees that have USL copyrights are specifically covered under an agreement to settle the 1992 lawsuit between the University of California Regents and Novel (the folks that purchased USL while the lawsuit was going on). That agreement specifically stated that Novel, and its successors, would not sue anybody who based their systems on 4.4lite. FreeBSD is based on 4.4lite, and is therefore immunized against such legal action based on copyright claims. UCB, for their part, removed certain files, rewrote others and added the copyright notices to still others. FreeBSD has no code that infringes upon the SCO group's intellectual property.

There never was any System V code in any BSD. Ever. The IP claims that USL made its 1992 suit were based on the inclusion of sixth and seventh editions and 32V. While these were the forerunners to System V and System III code bases, they are not specifically System V or System III. Furthermore, SCO released, under its ancient unix program, all sources that predated System III and System V to be freely distributed under a BSD-like license. These specifically included 6th edition, 7th edition and 32V.

IBM has never, to my knowledge, contributed significant work to the FreeBSD project. Since SCO's IP claims appear to be based in copyright law, FreeBSD is safe from claims via this vector.

Linux's libraries are completely free of SCO intellectual property as well. They are based on glibc, which has been written from scratch over the past 15 years or so. Other libraries are similarly written from scratch, or are based on code bases with well known lineages (for example, the X11 libraries). Therefore, FreeBSD is safe on this front.

Were we to include ibcs shared libraries that are necessary to run ibcs emulation, we might be volnerable to an ordinary copyright claim. However, we do not, so we are safe from that aspect of the claims that have been reported in the press.

Some, not connected with SCO as far as I can tell, have alledged that SCO is making patent claims against unix for its Unix IP intellectual property. Since most of the key concepts on Unix were invented before software patents, and also many years ago, the patents have either expired, been placed into the public domain, or were never issued. It is unlikely that SCO could prevail on claims in this area as well. A careful reading of SCO's statements show that they refer only to Unix IP, and copyright law to justify their suit against IBM. Even if that weren't the case, FreeBSD is safe here as well, as far as we can tell.

Finally, the FreeBSD core team has not been contacted by SCO representives directly. We have seen press reports, but they are not sufficiently specific for us to know what, exactly, would be alledged should SCO contact us. In addition, SCO's own web site has only talked about copyrighted code being transferred from IBM's AIX into Linux. Since there is no code that orginated in AIX in FreeBSD, we can only assume that we're safe from such claims. Our belief is that we're very safe from these actions, for the reasons I've outlined above. However, in the absense of specific allegations against us, we cannot, with certainty, say one way or the other.

Table of contents
  1. "Intro, Java, Corporate Support"
  2. "Linux, the desktop market"
  3. "Maturity of 5.x branch, speed of development compared to Linux"
  4. "How FreeBSD compares to other Unices"
  5. "Bug resolution, team work, graphical installer"
  6. "Optimizations, SPARC/PPC/Itanium/Opteron ports, third party tools"
  7. "XFree86 issue, re-unification of the BSDs, UFS2"
  8. "The SCO questionmark"
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