Worried Canadian Linux users are banding together to explore their legal options in the wake of SCO’s plans to charge licensing fees for any enterprise that has deployed the open source operating system.

A group called the Canadian Linux Interests Coalition (CLIC) said is it has sent letters to regional Linux user groups (LUGs) across the country in an effort to build consensus over what should be done about SCO. Formed last year after Caldera bought assets of the Santa Cruz Operation, SCO in March claimed it discovered parts of its intellectual property contained within a version of the Linux kernel. The company has since locked horns with IBM in a US$3 billion legal dispute and launched a licensing program at the recent LinuxWorld Expo conference.

Shad Young, who helped found CLIC, said the coalition already has the support of the Canadian Linux Users’ Exchange and has created a micro-site within its portal. The group is now consulting with lawyers and technology commentator Michael Geist at the University of Ottawa to see if there is any legal action it can take to block SCO’s plans in Canada.

Several Canadian users have dismissed SCO’s claims as a desperate cash grab, and even Young scoffed at the pictures of the contested code SCO posted on the Internet during its SCO Forum earlier this week. There is a danger, however, in not taking the threat seriously, he warned.

“”We were a little surprised the attitude people were taking,”” he said. “”It seemed to us that SCO has a whole lot more going on than attacking IBM. It’s the first real test of the general public licence.””

Young said CLIC is advising Canadian companies not to agree to the licensing program, which SCO says has attracted a few members in the United States. Blake Stowell, SCO’s director of corporate communications based in Lindon, Utah, said the company has fielded a number of requests for more information since its plans were announced. The alternative to licensing fees, he said, is a court date.

“”Should a company choose not to use a licence to use our software, they would really leave us no other choice,”” he said. “”It’s certainly not the path that we would like to go down. We’d like to settle this very amicably.””

Young said the controversy has to some extent brought the open source community closer together, though he said CLIC would not be seeking the support of IBM or major Linux distributors like Red Hat, even though those firms are already working through legal channels.

“”It’s their fight,”” he said. “”We feel that Linux was a community-driven project and it should remain so. It should be defended by the community, not large organizations.””

Young said CLIC would also be seeking the support of international LUGs. Some countries, like Germany and Australia, have successfully beat back SCO’s attempts to bring their crusade across the ocean.

Though the group has only about 40 individual members, Young said more are joining every day, and once more LUGs have endorsed its campaign, CLIC may try to put together a signatory area where users can express their support.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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