This Register article, IBM threatens SCO with GPL hearing, and this CNet News article, IBM asks for Linux ban on SCO, both point to the issues Eben Moglen alluded to last February at Harvard.
The motion says that by distributing Linux software governed by the GNU General Public License (GPL) while at the same time declaring the GPL invalid, SCO has forfeited the right to distribute Linux code, particularly code to which IBM has made contributions. SCO has been a harsh critic of the GPL, declaring it a violation of the U.S. Constitution in one legal document.
“SCO has, without permission, copied code from 16 discrete packages of copyrighted source code written by IBM for Linux and distributed those copies as part of its own Linux products,” according to IBM’s latest motion. “Although IBM’s contributions to Linux are copyrighted, they are permitted to be copied, modified and distributed by other under the terms of the…GPL. However, SCO has renounced, disclaimed and breached the GPL, and therefore the GPL does not give SCO permission or a license to copy and distribute IBM’s copyrighted works.”
The motion asks for a partial ruling that SCO has violated IBM’s Linux-related copyrights and a permanent injunction barring SCO from distributing allegedly infringing Linux code.
I’m sure there’s good stuff over at GrokLaw, but it’s not responding at the moment. This article from eWeek, SCO: Without Fear and Without Research, gives Moglen’s summary as follows:
SCO’s legal situation contains an inherent contradiction. SCO claims, in the letters it has sent to large corporate users of free software and in public statements demanding that that users of recent versions of the kernel take licenses, that the Linux program contains material over which SCO holds copyright. It also has brought trade secret claims against IBM, alleging that IBM contributed material covered by non-disclosure licenses or agreements to the Linux kernel. But it has distributed and continues to distribute Linux under GPL. It has therefore published its supposed trade secrets and copyrighted material, under a license that gives everyone permission to copy, modify, and redistribute. If the GPL means what it says, SCO loses its trade secret lawsuit against IBM, and cannot carry out its threats against users of the Linux kernel.
But if the GPL is not a valid and effective copyright permission, by what right is SCO distributing the copyrighted works of Linux’s contributors, and the authors of all the other copyrighted software it currently purports to distribute under GPL? IBM’s counterclaim against SCO raises that question with respect to IBM’s contributions to the Linux kernel. Under GPL section 6, no redistributor of GPL’d code can add any terms to the license; SCO has demanded that parties using the Linux kernel buy an additional license from it, and conform to additional terms. Under GPL section 4, anyone who violates GPL automatically loses the right to distribute the work as to which it is violating. IBM therefore rightly claims that SCO has no permission to distribute the kernel, and is infringing not only its copyrights, but those of all kernel contributors. Unless SCO can show that the GPL is a valid form of permission, and that it has never violated that permission’s terms, it loses the counterclaim, and should be answerable in damages not only to IBM but to all kernel contributors.