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20 March 2010, 07:51

SCO vs. Linux: The jury has been informed

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The second week in the Salt Lake City jury trial between the SCO Group and Novell about the copyright to Unix has uncovered further surprising details of this never-ending story. First, SCO's former CEO Darl McBride, who was called as a witness, confirmed that SCO didn't need the debated copyrights for the development of its family of operating systems, and that the copyrights were only required for the licensing business of the vendor's SCOSource division. Then the previously unaware jury members were informed that a judge had already delivered a ruling in this matter, but that his decision had been overturned. The trial will go into its third week while, at the same time, Novell's Brainshare conference will be held in Salt Lake City.

The current jury trial became necessary after, in 2009, a Court of Appeals overturned the first instance ruling passed by district judge Dale Kimball in 2007. The Court of Appeals ruled that the question whether the copyright to Unix was transferred when Novell sold the Unix distribution rights to SCO should be retried. In the court's opinion, this question was so involved that it should be tried by an unbiased jury instead of a district judge. Consequently, a jury without any prior knowledge of the long case history was sworn in to decide on the copyright question in the first week of the appeal trial.

During the testimony of a financial expert on day 9 of the trial, the presiding judge decided to inform the jury that a ruling had been passed against SCO in a previous trial but that this ruling was overturned by a Court of Appeals. Earlier, the questioning of a witness on day 8 of the trial had revealed that the copyright question is closely tied to the issuing of the antidote licences SCO intended sell to corporate Linux customers. SCO's former CEO Darl McBride had to admit to the court that the copyright ownership was regarded a prerequisite for selling antidote licences. According to McBride, this business collapsed after Novell announced that it would protect its customers against legal claims by SCO.

Another surprise during the second week of trial was the testimony given by Gary Pisano, an expert commissioned by SCO, who had to admit having based a calculation of damages on a market study by the Yankee Group without having investigated the methodology used for the study. Furthermore, the court was presented with an internal memorandum by Hewlett-Packard about the question of whether it was in customers' interest to purchase an antidote licence. The authors of the HP memorandum were of the opinion that buying such a licence is similar to providing financial support to terrorists.

(Detlef Borchers)

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(Detlef Borchers / djwm)

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