Systems software company the SCO Group, owner of the Unix System V operating system, has announced plans to establish a licensing programme for users of the open source operating system, Linux. The company, which claims copyright ownership over parts of Linux, claims that this will enable users to run the system without fear of litigation.
In March, SCO launched a $1billion lawsuit against IBM, alleging that the systems giant had transferred trade secrets from the Unix operating system to Linux. Since then, executives at the company have warned Linux users that SCO may take legal action against them for violation of intellectual property rights.
"We have a solution here that gets you clean and gets you square with the use of Linux without having to go into the courtroom," SCO chief executive Darl McBride has said. Alternatively, Linux users may revert to an earlier version of Linux that does not include the disputed code.
If SCO's plan succeeds, it could potentially earn billions of dollars. Exact pricing for a Linux license will be roughly equivalent to prices for UnixWare, SCO's own Unix 'flavour'. Those fees range from $700 for a single-processor server up to more than $10,000 for more powerful systems. "Even if you take an average number, it gets to a few billion [dollars] pretty quickly," said McBride.
SCO's actions have angered the open source movement, which believes that software should be developed by communities of users who share and exchange ideas in an environment free of commercial restraints. However, the news sent SCO's share price up by 20%.