IBM/SCO/GPL (Was: Re: (L)GPL remarks and FreeGIS licensing)

Paul Tansom paul at
Sun Aug 24 10:51:29 UTC 2003

** Alex Hudson <home at> [2003-08-12 21:50]:
> On Tue, 2003-08-12 at 21:37, Jo?o Miguel Neves wrote:
> > The part at issue in this case is article 7 of the GPL (see below).
> No, I understand that. I just don't see that it applies.
> People seem to be saying that section 7. is saying that since they
> distributed Linux (with their code) they were giving license for people
> to use their code. I don't believe that could ever be the case. It does
> mean that the code was unlicensed for use, and cannot be distributed,
> but SCO cannot be made to turn their act into a legal one retroactively.
> They were breaking the license unknowingly, I can't see how it can be
> argued otherwise.
** end quote [Alex Hudson]

Catching up on my mail, so a bit slow to reply here, but...

I'm no legal expert and I don't know how things differ in the US, but
surely ignorance is no defense in the eyes of the law?  If somebody,
particularly a corporate entity, is in a position where there is a legal
implication to an action (e.g. distributing software under a license) it
should take steps to examine the implications of said action (e.g. if
you are distributing software under a license you should be aware of the
terms of the license and what it implies to the code you own).

In SCO/Caldera's case, they had a product that had a close relationship
to the Linux code they were/are distributing.  As such they should have
examined to code to ensure they weren't 'giving away' anything they
didn't want to, and if/since they didn't that is their own problem.

The main issue in this case is probably that Caldera was distribution
Linux prior to owning the SCO code.  Where this leaves them I have no
idea.  Logically I would say that on purchasing the SCO code they should
have stopped distribution of their Linux distribution until they had
examined the code - thus ensuring that during their ownership of the
code they did not 'release it' under the GPL.  Of course this would
leave them as both the plaintive (as SCO/Caldera) and the defendant (as
Caldera) to some respect, but nobody has said this is a straightforward

Just my 2 pence (or 2 cents) worth.

Paul Tansom:  -  contact paul at for more information
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