Lindows.com Revelation Could Be Fatal Blow to SCO Case

By Timothy R. Butler | Posted at 2:20 PM

Lindows.com announced today that it has previously entered into an agreement through which SCO would provide Lindows with certain technology. According to Michael Robertson, CEO of Lindows.com, this means that Lindows.com customers will not have to worry about SCO's ongoing attempts to “protect its IP.” Interestingly enough, this may cause a much larger impact than Robertson bargained for.

In the announcement, Robertson asserts “We want to take this opportunity to emphasize there are no issues between SCO and Lindows.com, Inc.” He continues by noting that “SCO has publicly stated they will continue to honor all contractual obligations with existing customers including product updates, service, and support. Businesses, educational institutions and home users of LindowsOS can be confident they will not be dragged into a legal battle.”

This announcement raises a very serious implication concerning the legitimacy of the SCO lawsuit. If Lindows and Lindows customers are immune to SCO's litigation due to an agreement, as Lindows.com claims, it would indicate that Lindows' Linux kernel is immune from possible litigation. If this is indeed the case, Robertson's revelation could deal a fatal blow to SCO's lawsuit even as Lindows attempts to “not take a position as to the validity of the claims presented by either side.”

According to the way the GPL works, any code that is legally in a GPL licensed program must be placed under the GPL. Simply put, this means that Lindows.com's Linux kernel must consist only of GPL'ed code. If Lindows.com has indeed licensed enough of SCO's intellectual property to make its distribution legal in SCO's eyes, it has purged the Linux kernel of the “poisonous fruit” (if any actually exists).

In case you didn't catch that, let me repeat myself. Since Lindows.com cannot release a version of the Linux kernel without releasing it under the GPL, it has, by releasing a kernel with a licensed version of the SCO code, made that licensed SCO code GPL'ed. The only alternatives are that Lindows is either (a) violating its licensing agreement with SCO by doing so or (b) violating the Linux license by placing non-GPL'ed code in the Linux kernel and thereby infecting the GPL'ed code. Neither of these scenarios, however, fit with what Lindows is asserting.

No matter what the outcome of this development turns out to be, it is sure to make the ever more interesting and important events related to the SCO case continue to grow more complex. While it would seem that Lindows.com's main purpose with this announcement was to draw unsure customers to its distribution from other distributions, it has, perhaps, actually cleared the way to remove that uncertainty from all GNU/Linux distributions.



Timothy R. Butler is Editor-in-Chief of Open for Business. You can reach him at tbutler@uninetsolutions. com.

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