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SGI: Letter to the Linux Community

Oct 02, 2003, 01:30 (30 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Rich Altmaier)

[ Thanks to Ned Ulbricht for this link. ]

October 1, 2003

To the Linux Community:

As one of many contributors to the Open Source movement and to Linux, SGI takes the subject of intellectual property rights seriously. Our contributions are a valuable expression of ideas which contribute to the intellectual richness of Linux.

Over the past four years, SGI has released over a million lines of code under an open source license. Throughout, we have carried out a rigorous internal process to ensure that all software contributed by SGI represents code we are legally entitled to release as open source.

When a question was raised by the community earlier in the summer about the ate_utils.c routine, we took immediate action to address it. We quickly and carefully re-reviewed our contributions to open source, and found brief fragments of code matching System V code in three generic routines (ate_utils.c, the atoi function and systeminfo.h header file), all within the I/O infrastructure support for SGI's platform. The three code fragments had been inadvertently included and in fact were redundant from the start. We found better replacements providing the same functionality already available in the Linux kernel. All together, these three small code fragments comprised no more than 200 lines out of the more than one million lines of our overall contributions to Linux. Notably, it appears that most or all of the System V code fragments we found had previously been placed in the public domain, meaning it is very doubtful that the SCO Group has any proprietary claim to these code fragments in any case.

As a precaution, we promptly removed the code fragments from SGI's Linux website and distributed customer patches, and released patches to the 2.4 and 2.5 kernels on June 30 and July 3 to replace these routines and make other fixes to the SGI infrastructure code that were already in progress at SGI. Our changes showed up in the 2.5 kernel within a few weeks of our submission, and the 2.4 changes were available in the production version of the 2.4 kernel as of August 25 when the 2.4.22 kernel was released. Thus, the code in question has been completely removed.

Following this occurrence, we continued our investigation to determine whether any other code in the Linux kernel was even conceivably implicated. As a result of that exhaustive investigation, SGI has discovered a few additional code segments (similar in nature to the segments referred to above and trivial in amount) that may arguably be related to UNIX code. We are in the process of removing and replacing these segments.

SCO's references to XFS are completely misplaced. XFS is an innovative SGI-created work. It is not a derivative work of System V in any sense, and SGI has full rights to license it to whomever we choose and to contribute it to open source. It may be that SCO is taking the position that merely because XFS is also distributed along with IRIX it is somehow subject to the System V license. But if so, this is an absurd position, with no basis either in the license or in common sense. In fact, our UNIX license clearly provides that SGI retains ownership and all rights as to all code that was not part of AT&Ts UNIX System V.

I hope this answers some of the questions that you and the Linux community might have. We continue to release new Linux work, and are very excited about the growth and acceptance of Linux. We are continuing full speed to do new work and release new Linux products. We take our responsibility to the open source community seriously and are confident that we have an effective process to verify the quality and integrity of our contributions to Linux.

Rich Altmaier
VP of Software, SGI
richa@sgi.com

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