Novell has put out a press release this morning unequivocally claiming that they, and not SCO, own the patents and copyrights to UNIX System V. If true, this would torpedo SCO's claims over the last few months about intellectual property infringement in the Linux kernel, GNU/Linux distributions, etc. News.com has a story from last night, prior to this press release. SCO is releasing quarterly financial results today, including their notes about how much they've made from their licensing claims. You can join their conference call (mirror) if you like, and Bruce Perens weighs in below with a strongly-worded statement about SCO and Novell. Update: 05/28 14:22 GMT by M : SCO issued a response.
Bruce Perens writes:
"We knew that SCO's attack on Linux was a lie. But we never dreamed of the big lie behind it.
"This morning, Novell announced some of the terms of the company's 1995 agreement to sell its Unix business to SCO. The shocking news is that Novell did not sell the Unix intellectual property to SCO. Instead, they sold SCO a license to develop, sell, and sub-license Unix. The title to Unix copyrights and patents remains with Novell. To back up this assertion, Novell refers to public records at the Library of Congress Copyright Office and the U.S. Patent Office.
"In their announcement, Novell refers to recent letters from SCO asking Novell to assign the Unix copyrights to SCO. So, apparently SCO's management team knew that they did not own Unix while pursuing their sham campaign against Linux.
"Along with this revelation, Novell is reiterating its support of the Linux and Open Source developer community, and its status as a partner in that community. Novell rejects SCO's accusations of plagiarism. Novell management says they do not intend to stand in the way of the development of the Linux kernel, its companion GNU system, and other Free Software.
"It would be an understatement to say that this leaves SCO in a bad position. The company has loudly and repeatedly asserted that they were the owner of the Unix intellectual property, all of the way back to AT&T's original development of the system 30 years ago. They've lied to their stockholders, their customers and partners, the 1500 companies that they threatened, the press, and the public. Their untruthful campaign caused the loss of sales and jobs, and damaged Linux companies and developers in a myriad of ways. And now, SCO will be the lawsuit target. SCO's quarterly earnings conference call is this morning, at 9 AM MST (11 AM EST, 8 AM PST). Call 800-406-5356, toll-free, to participate. You might even get to ask a question. It should be fun to watch them try to weasel out of this one.
"Microsoft executives also have egg on their faces. The company self-servingly rushed to buy an SCO license one business day after the threat letter, bringing a senior attorney to the office on a Sunday to tell the press how much Microsoft values intellectual property. Microsoft's management could have taken the time to analyze SCO's claims, if the company had wanted this license for practical and technical reasons. Their decision to buy when they did must have been motivated by a desire to add to SCO's fear campaign. Of course they'll grab any opportunity to spread fear about Linux, but this time Microsoft bought a pig in a poke.
"SCO management, if they insist on standing in the way of a train, could still claim that software they developed in the years since 1995 is being infringed by the Open Source developers. That claim, always a dubious one, will be difficult to take seriously now that their prevarication throughout this campaign has come to light. SCO would be well advised to drop their suit against IBM in exchange for IBM's agreement not to counter-sue. But IBM might not feel that charitable toward SCO.
"In contrast to SCO, Novell's made a friend among the Free Software developers. We're always happy to see people using our software. But a real partnership between an IT vendor and our community is an equal partnership, with the company donating services and new software in exchange for the value it receives. Novell has already placed important software under Open Source licenses. Today, the company has done us a tremendous service, by stomping upon an obnoxious parasite."