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A jury of the District Court of Utah has just issued its verdict in the SCO Group vs. Novell trial w.r.t. the ownership of Unix copyrights. According to Novell:

The jury’s decision confirmed Novell’s ownership of the Unix copyrights, which SCO had asserted to own in its attack on Linux.

Furthermore, according to their press statement:

Novell remains committed to promoting Linux, including by defending Linux on the intellectual property front.

Congratulations! This is fine for the Linux ecosystem, which I wholeheartedly support, of course.

But what about the OpenSolaris community? Didn’t Sun (now Oracle) have an agreement of some kind with SCO to release the source code of Unix SVR4-tainted OpenSolaris? In a previous ruling, judge Dale Kimball ruled that:

After entering into the 2003 Sun Agreement, Sun released an opensource version of its UNIX-based Solaris product, called “OpenSolaris.” As its name suggests, OpenSolaris is based on Sun’s Solaris operating system, which is in turn based on Novell’s SVRX intellectual property. Absent the removal of the 1994 Sun Agreement’s confidentiality restrictions, Sun would not have been licensed to publicly release the OpenSolaris source code

…In this case, Sun obtained the rights to opensource Solaris, and SCO received the revenue for granting such rights even though such rights remained with Novell. If the court were to declare that the contract was void and should be set aside, the court could not return the parties to the same position they were in prior to the 2003 Agreement. Sun has already received the benefits of the agreement and developed and marketed a product based on those benefits. There was also evidence at trial that OpenSolaris directly competed with Novell’s interest. The court, therefore, cannot merely void the contract.

Hasn’t that agreement now been effectively nullified by this new verdict (if SCO didn’t own the copyrights to Unix, it was not entitled to grant licenses to Sun Microsystems in the first place)?

What if Novell decided to harass us OpenSolaris users and community, just because Solaris/OpenSolaris competes directly with their Linux business? The remaining of Novell’s press release is talking exclusively about Linux:

Ron Hovsepian, Novell president and CEO, said “This decision is good news for Novell, for Linux, and for the open source community. We have long contended that this effort against Linux has no foundation, and we are pleased that the jury, in a unanimous decision, agrees. I am proud of Novell’s role in protecting the best interests of Linux and the open source community.”

I wish I could be happy about this long awaited and hoped-for verdict (provided this ain’t an April Fool’s joke!), but Novell’s ambiguity, or rather silence w.r.t. non-Linux Unix-derived distributions is deeply disturbing, in my humble layman and non-lawyer opinion. I wished they would clarify their position on this too.

I’m not a lawyer, so all I can do is to point to the Groklaw story and forum for further details.

Let’s see how things play out, and how Novell will behave with their newly found powers.