Apparently SCO has added Sys V style init scripts and the ELF executable format to its list of misused code in the IBM lawsuit. If that were to hold up, it's pretty nasty. Even the most non-techy judge or jury would agree that Linux certainly does use ELF and Sys V init.
But it always did.
This can't be part of the IBM suit, because these were part of Linux from day one, long before IBM realized that the little penguin was useful against Microsoft. In How did we get here, I asked why SCO hadn't jumped on Linux earlier. That was back when we still thought the case was about esoteric memory managment schemes and SMP code. If ELF and Sys V init are what SCO claims they own, they should have had Linux in court a long time ago.
But they didn't.
I am not a lawyer. Every time I think something is plain and obvious, my lawyer tells me there's more to it, and vice versa. So I am definitely talking through my hat here when I say that it seems to me that it is a little late to be yelling theft now. If Linux "stole" Sys V init and ELF, SCO certainly knew that way back when. This stuff isn't buried in a gazillion lines of code, it doesn't take MIT mathematicians to ferret this out: it's right there, in plain sight, and anyone can see it. Again, SCO certainly cannot blame IBM for passing this to Linux, because this predates IBM's involvement entirely!
Sometimes I feel like I must be living in some alternate universe where nothing makes any sense. I don't know whether it's possible to "own" Sys V style init or ELF. I don't know enough about their respective heritage to make any guess as to whether SCO can make this stick. I do have the opinion that it will be a sad day for all of us if they do, because stifling innovation is never good, and killing or crippling Linux would do tremendous damage to Unixish OSes. If SCO gets this plum, it will be Microsoft who ends up eating it for dessert.
I searched around a bit trying to find if Groklaw, Slashdot or anyone else had more to say about this part of the case, but couldn't find much in the general noise. If you do know of any links that reference this, please do add 'em here.
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More Articles by Tony Lawrence © 2015-03-30 Tony Lawrence
Anyone who puts a small gloss on a fundamental technology, calls it proprietary, and then tries to keep others from building on it, is a thief. (Tim O'Reilly)