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SuSE sheltered by SCO pact

An agreement with SCO Group protects Linux seller SuSE from legal action stemming from SCO's accusation that Unix software was copied into Linux, SuSE says.

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Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
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An agreement with SCO Group protects Linux seller SuSE from legal action stemming from SCO's accusation that Unix software was copied into Linux, SuSE said.

"We have a joint development agreement with them, which includes appropriate cross-licensing arrangements," said SuSE spokesman Joe Eckert on Friday. "Our lawyers feel that covers us from any actions that SCO may take."

SCO on Thursday said it had found cases in which source code underlying the proprietary Unix operating system--the rights to which the Lindon, Utah-based company owns--had been copied into Linux, an open-source clone of Unix. If SCO can prove its allegation, resulting copyright infringement issues could pose a challenge to companies that sell Linux, legal experts have said.

Asked if SCO planned legal action against Red Hat and SuSE, SCO Chief Executive Darl McBride told CNET News.com, "There's a point in time that has to be resolved with those guys, too." However, he said such action isn't currently part of SCO's legal proceedings, which are concentrated on a billion-dollar lawsuit alleging that IBM misappropriated SCO's Unix trade secrets and moved them into Linux.

Proving that code was copied will require that SCO show the instructions aren't just an independent recreation of a particular method, said Illuminata analyst Jonathan Eunice.

"There are certain structures that are very idiomatic to a language like C," in which both Unix and Linux are programmed. "You would have to show the supposed equivalent snippets are not just someone programming in the idiom," Eunice said. And SCO will have to show extensive sections were copied, not just a handful of lines here and there.

Red Hat, the top seller of Linux, said its efforts to make sure it doesn't violate others' intellectual property rights mean that it's not concerned about SCO's accusations.

SuSE has in a different relationship with SCO, however. It hired about 15 SCO programmers when the two companies, along with Brazilian Linux seller Conectiva and Japanese Turbolinux, formed the UnitedLinux consortium.

Conectiva and Turbolinux also have a technology cross-license agreement with SCO that was signed as a part of that deal, Eckert said.