[linux-elitists] AT&T/IBM licences

Rick Moen rick@linuxmafia.com
Tue Jun 17 01:27:43 PDT 2003

Quoting Martin Pool (mbp@samba.org):

[SCO Group posted the ancient AT&T licences:]

> 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. 

Among other things, that would beg the twin questions of (1) how much of
the long-lived and incredibly diverse world of *ix can be reasonably
termed "derivative works" of SysV and (2) whether any court would
enforce those antique contract claims over even licensees, let alone
others, after the very considerable passage of time sitting in the
bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a
sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard." 

> 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?)

I don't believe there have been very many cases that have addressed
what, in software, constitutes a derivative work.  One of the few I'm
aware of was Progress Software Corp. v. MySQL AB, tried in US Federal
Court in Massachusetts.  The Court granted MySQL AB an injunction
prohibiting Progess Software from sublicensing or distributing its
"Gemini" product, which was the original MySQL linked to some
proprietary add-ons -- but stated in its opinion that "the matter is one
of fair dispute".

If that seems like something short of a broad settling of the question,
get used to it.  ;->  Courts tend to _avoid_ ruling broadly if they can
avoid doing so.

> 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.

I'd be extravagantly surprised if any court accepts SCO Group's general
anything-that's-been-near-our-stuff-is-ours concept of derivative works.
Talk about your viral effect!

Cheers,              First they came for the verbs, and I said nothing, for
Rick Moen            verbing weirds language.  Then, they arrival for the nouns
rick@linuxmafia.com  and I speech nothing, for I no verbs. - Peter Ellis

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