Shad Young, Founder of CLIC

When Shad Young was trained as a weapon systems specialist in the Canadian Armed Forces, he never knew he’d be going into battle against an enemy like SCO.

As the founder of Canadian Linux Interests Coalition, Young spent 2003 trying to help organizations here understand the implications of

one of the year’s most controversial issues: SCO’s claim it owns portions of the Linux kernel originally created by Linus Torvalds. SCO, which was formed last year when former Linux distributor Caldera bought some of the former Santa Cruz Operation’s assets, said it received copyright registrations in the United States, which provided the basis for a licensing program of its Unixware OS. This program, it says, would cover binary use of Linxel based on kernel version 2.4 or higher.

Young, based in Ottawa, runs a Web site called Ascendant.ca that he describes as an information and literary repository for things of a “”socio-technical”” nature. It was here he and a colleague began tracking SCO’s claims when they surfaced in March. This led him to approach the Canadian Linux Users Exchange about forming a special group to look into the SCO issue with a Canadian perspective.

Young said he was first introduced to open source computing in 1995 through a friend who was programming a game engine using Linux for its suite of development tools. At first, Young thought Linux was a step backwards from what he’d learned since developing his database skills as a department administrator at the Paul Menton Center for Persons with Disabilities.

“”Most Linux enthusiasts used the command line. It seemed a heck of a lot like DOS to me,”” he says. Later, Young got a graphical interface called X Windows up and running on Slackware. “”It was rudimentary by comparison to Windows 95, but it was cool to be the first one I knew of using it.””

Young’s interest in IT began at Carleton University, where he pursued a degree in Anthropology after leaving the Armed Forces. Since working at the Paul Menton Center he has focused on consulting, particularly in the small office/home office and small and medium-business segment. Like many people concerned about SCO’s actions, he says Linux is his livelihood.

Roger Petry, a research associate with the Saskachewan office of the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives, wrote a paper this year that proposed the use of Linux in the provincial government. He says the SCO situation will put not merely Linux but the entire General Public Licence (GPL) under the microscope.

“”SCO probably does have copyright to some of the material in the Linux kernel, but the question is whether it was properly or improperly contributed (to the GPL),”” he said. “”SCO isn’t specifying what the problems are, because if they did, people could look back in the kernel development logs.””

Young, through CLIC, is urging Canadian firms not to accept SCO’s licensing program until all these avenues have been explored.

“”By paying SCO, it’s reinforcing their claim,”” he says. “”This is an extortion tactic.””

Some Linux users say they’re more than willing to bide their time. Neil Fortlage, vice-president of IT at Winnipeg-based customs broker George H. Young, says he wants proof before he pays SCO any money.

“”Until I see that they’re going to make a case that may be viable and win in court, I’m not willing to sign a cheque over to them,”” he says. “”So many people are betting on this continued Linux move.””

Those with the most to lose include IBM, which SCO slapped with a US$3 billion lawsuit earlier this year, and Red Hat. SCO also recently said it would seek legal action against Novell, which recently announced plans to purchase Linux distributor SuSE.

“”To me, they’re the ones to fight it out,”” Fortlage says.

“”I believe this all going to blow over, disappear. Whether that’s in terms of financial payments to make them shut up and go away or whether or not they’re going to completely prove they’re absolutely out to lunch, I don’t know.””

CLIC has so far avoided backing vendors like IBM or Novell and has placed its focus on users. According to Young, this is where the battle must be fought.

“”SCO has polarized the community for the first time,”” he says. “”And yet this is an opportunity for us to stand together on a strong issue . . . It’s allowing us to build a much stronger Linux community with a more united front.””

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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