[linux-elitists] AT&T/IBM licences

Martin Pool mbp@samba.org
Mon Jun 16 22:22:50 PDT 2003

SCO have posted something purporting to be the original licences.  I'm
not sure when they went up but I haven't seen them discussed yet.  

There are some elements that seem to bode well for SCO but on the
whole it's not good.


SCO have recently claimed amongst other things to have rights over
anything descended from Unix, as well as the SysV code itself.  

The licence partially backs that up, by saying "derivative works" from
AT&T SysV are covered by the original licence, and must be held in
confidence.  So I can see how this applies to AIX, assuming it had (or
once had) SysV code in it.

It is less clear whether "derivative works" includes other software
that happens to be built on Unix but that it not derived from it.
(Maybe somebody familiar in detail with US copyright law would know
the definition?)

However, the letter in exhibit C clarifies this with:

  2... [W]e agree that modifications and derivative works prepared by
  or for you [IBM] are owned by you [IBM].  However, ownership of any
  portion or portions of SOFTWARE PRODUCTS included in any such
  modification or derivative work remains with us.

RCU (for example) was invented by Sequent, later owned by IBM.  It
seems to me that it was not a derivative work, although AIX+RCU
possibly was.

IBM's position as I understand it has always been that they could not
release all of AIX, because some of it was licenced from other
companies.  However, everything they exclusively owned would be
considered for release -- presumably their legal teams considered RCU,
JFS, etc to be IBM property.

In SCO's favour, the documents shown apparently do give the licensor
the right to terminate the agreement.  However, IBM might well have
signed a later contract making their rights irrevocable and perpetual
and indeed they should have if at all possible.  In any case SCO first
have to show that IBM is in breach.


More information about the linux-elitists mailing list