Having some questions about who owns the copyrights to Unix, I decided to ask a prominent lawyer (who shall remain unnamed). The following conversation ensued
(( apologies to the original writers of the Abbott & Costello skit )).

I understand that with companies signing contracts and changing names and filing lawsuits over time, it can sometimes be a big question as to who owns what.


So given that you're a really good lawyer, I thought I'd ask you my question.

Well, thanks for your business.

So what I want to know is, who owns the copyrights to Unix.

You too, hunh?

That question pops up a lot?

Oh, yeah... all the time.

So, who?

Who what?

Who owns them.

Who owns what?

(pause) Who owns the copyrights to Unix?

(pause) Whoever got them last.

(pause) OK, then, so that would be SCO?

Which SCO?

The SCO....

Well, there's more than one SCO.

Please explain.

Well, the original SCO was originally the Santa Cruz Organization. They started with the rights to Xenix (a version of Unix developed by Microsoft). They changed their name to SCO after a big drug scandal in Santa Cruz (which had nothing to do with them), then they bought the Novell's Unix business.

OK, I follow you so far.

Then SCO sold their UNIX business to Caldera -- a company developing Linux -- a Free source replacement for Unix. At that point, SCO (formerly the Santa Cruz Organization) changed their name to Tarantella.

So at that point, there was no SCO

Very good.

And Caldera was developing both the free Linux, and the proprietary Unix.

That's right.

Doesn't that place them in a conflict of interest?

Sure, but that's no big deal. People and companies end up in a conflict of interest all the time. It's only people like Judges and Lawyers who have a professional need to remain independent, that have a problem with conflict of interest.

OK. Well getting back to the question at hand. If SCO sold their UNIX business and ceased to be SCO, how come SCO is suing IBM for billions of dollars?

Because they're not SCO. They're actually Caldera.

Go on.....

Well, it's not actually even Caldera.... You see, after Caldera bought Unix, they spun off a subsidiary called Caldera International, and the Unix business was transferred to Caldera International. It's Caldera International who changed their name to The SCO Group that is suing IBM.

So it's not actually SCO that's suing IBM, it's a division of Caldera that's suing IBM under the assumed name of The SCO Group!

Close enough!

And it's this SCO Group that actually owns the rights to Unix.

Not necessarily.

Oh, crumb.

You see, when Novell sold their Unix business to SCO, they only promised to transfer whatever copyrights were necessary for SCO to carry on their Unix business, if SCO was able to prove the need for such a transfer to take place.

And did SCO ever prove the need for such a transfer?

Not that I know of.

And The SCO Group (nee Caldera)?

I don't think so.

So then, its Novell that owns the copyrights to Unix!



Well, what Novell had depends on a Lawsuit that Unix Systems Labs had against The University of California at Berkley and some BSD Unix developers back in the early '90s, but that lawsuit ended up in a settlement with a non-disclosure agreement, so I can't tell you much about that.

OK, well, I think that's enough for now, my brain's starting to hurt.

No problem. That'll be $200.00.

For what?

For answering your question.

(pause) If I shoot you, could I claim temporary insanity?

You'll have to ask another lawyer, I'm in a conflict of interest on that question.

for more on the SCO lawsuits (and other Open source legal issues.

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