Here are the details of my attempt to get the sources for a Linux kernel which SCO had distributed in binary form on its public FTP site. Although my correspondence with a representative of SCO support was polite, and I appreciate his responses, he ultimately refused by fulfull SCO's obligations under the GPL, citing instead a SCO "Legal Notice." As an aside, binaries and sources for other versions of the Linux 2.4 kernel are still available from SCO now, by public FTP, and without any such "Legal Notice" in sight.
When the SCO Group launched its lawsuit against IBM, SCO's own FTP sites still contained large numbers of Linux kernel sources and binaries, packages for use with Linux, installation disk images, and other related files. This is only natural, because SCO was primarily a Linux company. As the lawsuit has progressed, SCO announced that it had suspended its Linux activities, and that all Linux-related files would henceforth be available only to existing SCO customers. The implementation of this idea, however, has been partial at best. Many of the directories on ftp.sco.com have gradually disappeared, and many of them have been marked with a "legal notice" file indicating the new policy: ftp://ftp.sco.com/pub/updates/Legal_Notice.
This notice just states that SCO has "suspended new sales and distribution of SCO Linux," mentions the binary license for existing customers, and points to the password-protected site. As far as I can tell, there has never been anything even hinting at restrictions on who may use the public FTP site.
As files of interest have disappeared, I have posted information about them to Groklaw. I have generally avoided posting information about Linux kernel files that were still available on the FTP site.
On July 9, 2004, I downloaded a Caldera Open Linux installation floppy image from
One of the files on this floppy image is vmlinuz, a compressed Linux kernel. It identifies itself as
Naturally, I decided to request the source code and find out whether or not SCO would live up to its obligation to provide it. On August 16, and again on September 20, I sent simple inquiries to email@example.com on this subject. In each case an automated reply with general information about SCO came immediately, and I didn't really expect anything more. On October 19, however, a knowledgeable, polite, and live employee from SCO support wrote to me requesting more information. Out of consideration for this SCO employee, I will not print his name here, nor have I included his messages in full.
Here is my response, October 23:
Dear Mr. [---],
The next message from SCO support came on October 25, and suggested that I could find the source files by following the instructions at http://www.sco.com/support/linux_info.html.
My reply, October 25:
Dear Mr. [---],
After a little wait, on November 9, I received the final message from SCO support so far. It mentioned the presence of the "Legal Notice" from the FTP site, but with one sentence that doesn't match any version I can find on the FTP site:
"The Linux rpms available on SCO's ftp site are offered for download to existing customers of SCO Linux, Caldera OpenLinux or SCO UnixWare with LKP, in order to honor SCO's support obligations to such customers."
The final response about complying with the GPL was an explicit refusal: "Because the file you downloaded was clearly marked as begin for existing SCO customers, we do not believe we have an obligation to provide you with the source for the image that you downloaded."
Analysis of SCO's refusal
My assumption is that the SCO employee with whom I corresponded received instructions on how to deny my request, and probably understands the problems with his company's actions. Therefore I decided not to pester him any more.
Here are the problems with SCO's response, as far as I can tell.
And the important ones: the GPL permits distribution under sections 3(a), 3(b), and 3(c), any one of which may be satisfied.
Therefore, SCO's distribution of this Linux kernel in binary form does not appear to be permitted under any part of the GPL. This remains true even if I was somehow not entitled to download the install.144 image from SCO's public FTP site. I can only conclude that SCO has deliberately chosen not to honor the GPL with respect to Linux.
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