NZOSS hires 'big dog' to fight SCO

The New Zealand Open Source Society is hiring "a big dog" - in the form of a QC who specialises in intellectual property - to resist SCO's Linux licence fee claims.

The New Zealand Open Source Society is hiring “a big dog” — in the form of a QC who specialises in intellectual property — to resist SCO’s Linux licence fee claims.

Auckland law firm Clendon Feeney is advising the society, and partner Craig Horrocks says one of the country’s leading IP lawyers will spearhead efforts to deflect SCO’s fee claims. He wouldn’t name the lawyer.

“When you make a claim like this you typically go out and hire a big dog,” Horrocks says, in reference to SCO’s hiring of David Boies, the lawyer who took the US government’s anti-trust suit against Microsoft. Horrocks is also no stranger to that action, having taken a complaint to the Commerce Commission of anti-competitive behaviour by Microsoft.

Open Source Society spokesman Peter Harrison says he’s not aware of any local Linux users who have been approached by SCO to pay licence fees. But he says the company’s stated intention to do so is damaging the open source community.

“People are talking about pulling Linux because of it.”

Harrison says SCO’s strategy is to claim users are infringing its intellectual property, without saying exactly what, thereby denying them the opportunity to stop infringing.

Massey University would be faced with a six-figure bill if SCO pressed a licence fee claim for the institution’s Linux-based Helix supercomputer. Parallel computing director Chris Messom says the university is anxious to identify any offending code so it can be removed from the Linux kernel it is running.

“The kernel we’re using at the moment has been modified to fit our needs so I don’t see removal of any SCO code as a technical issue.”

Messom supports an Open Source Society plan to hold a meeting this week at which legal options in the SCO case will be considered. Organisations with substantial Linux deployments are being encouraged to attend.

“Those people who are affected can come and discuss their many options in law,” says Horrocks, whose Auckland firm will host the meeting.

SCO told Computerworld earlier this month that it was working out licence fee details before approaching New Zealand Linux users. Massey’s Messom, and the CIO at Weta Digital — which has a massive Linux-based graphics rendering system — said a fortnight ago that they wouldn’t be paying.

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