Weta, Massey say no to SCO

Weta Digital and Massey University face massive bills from SCO's attempted imposition of a Linux licensing charge, but neither intends paying - at this stage.

Weta Digital and Massey University face massive bills from SCO’s attempted imposition of a Linux licensing charge, but neither intends paying — at this stage.

The SCO Group last week announced how much it wants Linux users to pay for the privilege of using the open source OS. A licence for the “right to use SCO IP” in a Linux server starts at $US699 for a single-CPU system. That’s an “introductory” price; SCO says the price will double to $US1399 after October 15.

SCO claims Linux contains source code that it owns, and that Linux users are infringing its copyright. Last month CEO Darl McBride said SCO would launch a licensing programme for Linux users “to help customers solve this problem”.

Even at the introductory price Massey University’s Helix supercomputer would incur a licensing charge of $US97,875. Chris Messom, the university’s parallel computing director, says it’s “unlikely” the university will buy an introductory licence for the 132-CPU Beowulf cluster.

“We’ll see what the US courts decide,” Messom says. “It’s tied with the litigious atmosphere in the US.”

Messon is sceptical of SCO’s claims, noting that SCO distributed its own Linux distribution under the GNU licence, which requires that source code be made freely available. “If they claim that some of their intellectual property is inside Linux, the Linux community can make a counter-claim,” he says.

SCO hasn’t yet said which parts of the kernel source infringes its copyright, even though it is demanding licensing fees. “There’s obviously an element of subtlety in the sense that they’ve put it out into the user community and then asked people to pay for it,” Messom says.

If SCO’s claims are proven correct, Messom says the affected parts of the Linux kernel will be quickly replaced. However, Helix isn’t tied to Linux, he says. “We could transparently replace the kernel underneath and everything would keep functioning.”

Weta Digital uses Linux in its render farm of over 2000 CPUs. Depending how the chips are counted, a SCO licence would cost the company somewhere from $US1,149,000 to over $US1,500,000 — at introductory pricing. CTO Scott Houston says Weta is also unlikely to purchase a SCO licence.

Houston recently returned from the Siggraph conference in San Diego, where the SCO claims were discussed among the Linux users, he says. “There’s a general feeling that it is a concern for us, but no one’s reacting to the extent that they’re embracing SCO at this stage.”

Houston says he hasn’t heard from any SCO representatives, but is keeping a watching brief.

“It does feel like a game of brinkmanship. It’s something we’re looking over the fence at and keeping an eye on,” he says. “The other studios are aware of it as well.”

In the meantime, Weta will focus on making movies, Houston says.

SCO’s website lists pricing for “right to use SCO IP” licences for Linux users. The “introductory” pricing is valid until October 15.

A client licence for a single-user desktop system is $US199.

A single-CPU, embedded device is US$32.

Server licences

With 1 CPU: $US699

With 2 CPUs: $US1149

With 4 CPUs: $US2499

With 8 CPUs: $US4999

Each Additional CPU: $US749

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Tags SCO

More about LinuxMassey UniversitySCOScott CorporationThe SCO GroupWeta Digital

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