Linux users outside of the Fortune 1000 cannot buy the software licence that The SCO Group has been offering since August. The licence had been presented as a way for users to protect themselves against possible legal action but it seems that the get-out clause will only be available to large customers.
"We're trying to execute on this licensing plan (by) really starting to deal with the very top players and working our way down," said Blake Stowell, a SCO spokesman. "After the company has rolled this out to the Fortune 1000 and we're satisfied with how the programme is going... we'll then roll it down to small to medium businesses."
SCO has asserted that the Linux source code contains a number of violations of its Unix intellectual property (IP) rights, though Linux advocates have hotly disputed the validity of the evidence it has presented so far. The company announced its Intellectual Property License for Linux in August, saying Linux users must purchase the US$699 licence to avoid violating SCO's Unix IP rights.
Until Tuesday, SCO had not indicated that its Linux licensing plan is available only to the Fortune 1000, a term generally used to denote the world's 1,000 largest corporations. "We didn't articulate that at the time and probably should have," Stowell said.
One Linux user who had been trying to purchase a SCO licence since August said that he became frustrated by SCO's actions.
Linux users should not be concerned about SCO lawsuits being launched without warning, according to Stowell. "I don't think that any company is going to see a lawsuit rolled out to them that hasn't been given an honest and fair chance to purchase a licence," he said.
SCO has admitted in recent weeks to having difficulties rolling out the licensing plan. Last Thursday it revealed that it had delayed, until Nov. 1, a plan to double the price of the licence, in order to give users more time to buy licenses at the lower rate.
Stowell advised small and medium-sized businesses interested in the Linux licence to wait for SCO to contact them. However, customers that contact SCO before the Nov. 1 deadline will be eligible for the $699 per processor rate even if they can't actually purchase the license by that date, he said.
Streib said he would like to see that in writing.
"Where's my letter saying, 'Thank you for talking to us, when we're ready to sell this to you you'll get it at the discounted rate and, by the way, we're not going to sue you?'" he asked.
SCO may be proceeding cautiously with licensing sales for fear of litigation from an entity like the Free Software Foundation which has intellectual property claims to Linux, said IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky. "As soon as they sell the first one, litigation will be started from all quarters," he predicted. "I think the people from The SCO Group realised that if they opened that box, they'd never be able to close it again."