The legal war between The SCO Group and IBM has taken another step forward. The Utah-based software company has asserted that IBM does not have the right to enforce the GNU General Public License (GPL) software license that governs the Linux operating system.
"The GPL is selectively enforced by the Free Software Foundation such that the enforcement of the GPL by IBM or others is waived," SCO claimed in papers filed with the US District Court for the District of Utah.
"The Free Software Foundation is the only entity that can enforce the GPL so, in effect, IBM is barred from trying to enforce the GPL with SCO," SCO spokesperson, Blake Stowell, said.
SCO's filings also assert that "the GPL violates the US Constitution, together with copyright, antitrust and export control laws".
The filings were made in response to a countersuit brought against SCO by IBM last August, which alleged that SCO had violated the GPL and a number of IBM's software patents.
SCO and IBM have been engaged in a legal dispute over Big Blue's contributions to Linux since SCO sued the computer giant in March, alleging that IBM had inappropriately contributed code to the open source operating system in an effort to enhance its Linux server business.
A lawyer representing the Free Software Foundation (FSF) disputed SCO's claims that the FSF is the only organisation with the necessary legal standing to launch a GPL-based lawsuit.
Since IBM holds the copyright to much of the Linux kernel software that is distributed under the GPL license, it has every right to enforce the GPL, he said.
"The proper enforcer of a copyright is the copyright holder,"general counsel for the FSF, Eben Moglen, said. "IBM says, 'You're using a copyrighted work of ours in a fashion which is prohibited by the Copyright Act, and you're doing so without our permission. You owe us damages and you must stop.'"
If the GPL is not a valid license, Moglen reasoned, then SCO itself does not have the right to redistribute Linux – something it has done for years.
"If SCO says the GPL isn't valid permission, then they have no valid permission," he said. "Redistributing copyrighted works without permission, we are told by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) every day, is stealing."
The court fillings also disputed IBM's claims that SCO had violated IBM's software patents.
"If we're in violation of them, then just about every other vendor in the entire software industry is in violation of them," SCO's Stowell said. "What they're claiming is something that is a common practice within the software industry."