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Thursday, September 16, 2004 - Page updated at 08:31 P.M.
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Correction: IBM licensed the Unix operating-system code from AT&T in 1985. This article about a lawsuit brought by SCO Group against IBM incorrectly said SCO had licensed the Unix system to IBM.

IBM seeks ruling on copyright claim for Linux

By Jeff St. Onge and Susan Decker
Bloomberg News

Linus Torvalds is the creator of Linux.
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SALT LAKE CITY — IBM asked a judge to rule that its additions to the free Linux operating system don't infringe copyrights owned by SCO Group.

The issue, raised at a hearing yesterday in federal court in Salt Lake City, centers around SCO's claim that IBM and other companies use code from SCO's Unix operating system in Linux.

SCO is seeking billions of dollars in royalties from IBM, the world's largest computer maker. Linden, Utah-based SCO has separately sued AutoZone and sent letters to hundreds of other Linux users seeking royalties for what it claims are its intellectual property.

At issue in the hearing was whether the Linux software includes lines of Unix code IBM received as part of a contract with SCO. "The only question is whether the two bodies of code compare or not. That's it," said David Marriott, IBM's lawyer.

SCO's lawsuit is the biggest challenge to efforts by companies including IBM, Red Hat and Hewlett-Packard to maintain Linux as a free operating system. The decision by creator Linus Torvalds to make Linux available free on the Internet has contributed to its growth. The use of Linux in server computers is growing almost three times faster than Microsoft's Windows.

SCO, Marriott said, has produced no evidence that Linux uses the Unix code.

SCO urged U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball to dismiss IBM's request for a ruling on the copyright issue. SCO lawyer Brent Hatch said that it's IBM, not SCO, that's withholding information to prevent a comparison of the code to the rival operating systems.

"IBM is asking us to compare this code in the most time-consuming and inefficient way possible," he told the judge.

The judge gave no indication when he would rule on the requests.

Torvalds, 34, created Linux 13 years ago while a Finnish graduate student. He and other volunteers update and give away the software on the Internet, propelling its development.

Linux's popularity has gained as individuals and companies tout it as an alternative to Microsoft's Windows operating system, which runs 95 percent of the world's personal computers and 55 percent of the servers that manage networks.
 
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IBM sells computers that run Linux, and its consultants advise clients on how and when they might benefit from using the programs.

SCO has licensed the Unix operating system since buying the rights from Novell for $145 million in 1995 and in turn licensed it to IBM for development of AIX, IBM's Unix system.

The litigation began with allegations that IBM took advantage of that contract and inserted part of the Unix code in Linux. Novell has said that SCO doesn't have the authority to sue IBM, and a separate Novell lawsuit that will determine SCO's rights to Unix is pending before Kimball.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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