Analyst Finds SCO's Claims Tough To Verify
Part of the NewsFactor Network
June 13, 2003
A former Unix-kernel programmer and computer-science professor, Claybrook was one of three analysts invited by SCO to see the code the company alleges was copied from Unix System V into Linux. SCO showed the code to select industry professionals in an effort to bolster support for its lawsuit against IBM (NYSE: IBM) . SCO alleges the tech powerhouse misappropriated code from Unix System V -- SCO holds the copyright -- and copied it into Linux. IBM has denied the charges.
Upon his initial examination, Claybrook did see code and related programming comments that were identical in both the Unix and Linux codes, he told NewsFactor.
As he noted in his report, "The code that I was shown was from a well-known Unix .c file. It is only one of several instances that SCO alleges that an IHV [independent hardware vendor] directly copied System V source into Linux. Based on what SCO showed me, the amount of alleged copied code and comments in the .c function amounted to about 80 lines."
Even though he saw identical code in both the Unix and Linux examples he was shown, Claybrook found the experience to be inconclusive.
"I was sitting in a Marriot in Boston looking at this stuff, and they had the Unix System V code on the left and the Linux code on the right," Claybrook said. But, "just eyeballing the code" did not provide enough information to be conclusive, he said.
"I wasn't able to look at the files on the computer, so, all I can say is, 'I saw this stuff, and I don't know whether it's true or not.'"
Claybrook said that he has gotten e-mails from developers he knows questioning which version of Unix the code in question was copied from. "All of it could have been copied from BSD Unix," he said, referring to a version of Unix different from SCO's System V version. "I have no way of knowing all that -- not without seeing it on the computer," he said.
"And what's weird about it is, it wasn't like they copied the whole function," Claybrook said, referring to the programmers who allegedly copied code. "If you pull pieces of code from one program to another, it means you have to integrate them into your code, and then test with everything else," he said. "It just doesn't make sense -- why not take the whole function?"
However, SCO presented the allegedly copied code as just one of many by a large IHV, Claybrook said.
"I specifically asked SCO if they had any evidence that IBM directly copied System V source code into Linux. The reply was no," Claybrook wrote in his report. "SCO has subsequently changed that reply to, 'We have that code but we have not presented it at this time.'"
When asked if the confusion about this issue is odd, given that this is the central tenet of SCO's lawsuit against IBM, Claybrook agreed. "Whenever I asked the question, Chris Sontag, the VP there, told me no," Claybrook said. "But then I got an e-mail 8 to 10 hours later from Blake Stowell, director of PR, that said they had 'misspoken' -- they did have evidence that IBM had directly copied code."
Claybrook said he finds the claim that IBM copied code "very hard to believe," adding that he has been told that IBM has a "really good process for screening anything" included in the company's software products.
Although Claybrook did not find SCO's presentation conclusive, "I don't this is an open-and-shut case," he said, adding that he does not think SCO is deliberately making false claims. "I don't think David Boise would go to all this trouble if he thought it was just about ripping someone off," said Claybrook, referring to the attorney who successfully prosecuted the government's case against Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) .
But he noted that regardless of the validity of its claims, SCO has not made itself popular as it pursues its legal action. As Forrester analyst Ted Schadler told NewsFactor, "At the end of day, SCO has inserted some sand in the works in the gears of Linux adoption, and it's annoying."
"In Aberdeenšs view, if SCO wins its lawsuit against IBM (or settles out of court), then this is not a knockout punch for Linux," Claybrook wrote. "Instead, the lawsuit is a signal that some changes may need to occur in the way Linux is developed.
"Linux suppliers and ISVs want a more organized way of getting important features into Linux, and they want road maps," he wrote, noting that some of these changes are already taking place. For example, organizations like the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL) are now more involved in determining the feature sets to be implemented in Linux kernels.
As Forrester analyst Stacey Quandt said to NewsFactor, "While the merits of SCO's case remain to be proven, in the end Linux will continue to be a viable alternative to Windows and Unix."