The open-source community burst into song yesterday after a jury decided an important contract case involving open-source software. The jury found that, when Novell Inc. sold the source code for the iconic Unix operating system to SCO Group Inc., it did not sell the copyright(s) in the code.
If the verdict stands, it will be a huge relief to the open-source community: SCO won’t be able to continue to pursue copyright-infringement suits against vendors of the equally-iconic Linux operating system, which SCO claimed infringed the Unix copyrights.
You might be scratching your head about this. In buying Unix, SCO acquired an intellectual-property asset of global significance. How on earth could they have signed a contract that didn’t convey ownership of the key intellectual-property rights, namely the copyrights and trademarks? Did their lawyers screw up, or what?
Fortunately, Silicon Valley lawyer George Grellas has posted an explanation that makes sense of it all, sort of — it seems the problem was money.
Well, the problem was a little bit lawyer-screwup, wasn’t it? Even the most charitable interpretation of the language George points out would leave the most well-intentioned and reasonable people madly clawing each other’s eyes out over the proper interpretation of that mess.