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SCO warns open-source community

In an open letter, SCO Chief Executive Darl McBride tells open-source developers they need to do a better job of policing themselves and sets sights on SGI.

Open-source software supporters need to do a better job of policing themselves as developers and activists, according to Darl McBride, CEO of controversial Unix seller SCO Group.

In an "open letter to the open-source community," McBride held open-source supporters accountable for recent denial-of-service attacks that crippled SCO's Web site. McBride said open-source advocates risk hurting their own cause unless they police each other to prevent and punish such actions.

"We cannot have a situation in which companies fear they may be next to suffer computer attacks if they take a business or legal position that angers the open-source community," McBride wrote in the letter, which CNET obtained an advance copy of before it was posted on SCO's Web site Tuesday morning. "Until these illegal attacks are brought under control, enterprise customers and mainstream society will become increasingly alienated from anyone associated with this type of behavior."

SCO rattled the technology world early this year by filing a $3 billion lawsuit against IBM, claiming that the computing giant illegally incorporated into its Linux software source code from the Unix operating system that SCO controls. SCO further riled the Linux community by sending letters to 1,500 information technology managers, warning them that any use of Linux could expose them to intellectual property suits. SCO tried to capitalize on its claims when it unveiled a licensing plan for businesses that wish to continue using Linux with SCO's blessing.

McBride's letter confirms speculation that high-end computer maker SGI is a target in SCO's widening legal case.

McBride said comments from open-source leader Bruce Perens verify that code derived from SCO's System V version of Unix were incorporated into Linux software distributed by SGI (formerly Silicon Graphics). He dismissed claims that the copying was accidental.

"Nothing can change the fact that a Linux developer on the payroll of Silicon Graphics stripped copyright attributions from copyrighted System V code that was licensed to Silicon Graphics under strict conditions of use and then contributed that source code into Linux as though it was clean code owned and controlled by SGI," he said. "This is a clear violation of SGI's contract and copyright obligations to SCO."

McBride said SCO is in negotiations with SGI over the issues. SGI representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

McBride characterized the alleged SGI misappropriation as symptomatic of larger flaws in the open-source development process. He said that without an adequate mechanism to ensure the integrity of code submitted by Linux developers, the software rests on a shaky legal platform unlikely to inspire the confidence of corporate decision-makers.

"If the open-source community wants its products to be accepted by enterprise companies, the community itself must follow the rules and procedures that govern mainstream society," he said. "This is what global corporations will require. And it is these customers who will determine the ultimate fate of open source--not SCO, not IBM, and not open-source leaders."

Open-source advocates have disparaged SCO's evidence and cast the legal case as a Microsoft-backed ploy to discourage corporate adoption of Linux. McBride said such arguments ignore the real issues.

"Rather than ignore or challenge copyright laws, open-source developers will advance their cause by respecting the rules of law that built our society into what it is today," he said. "This is the primary path towards giving enterprise companies the assurance they need to accept open-source products at the core of their business infrastructure. Customers need to know that open source is legal and stable."