Free Software Foundation Weighs Response to SCO Subpoena

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) said today that The SCO Group subpoenaed the group’s records late last year seeking detailed information about the GNU Public License (GPL) used in the distribution of the GNU/Linux operating system.

“This is a broad subpoena that effectively asks for every single document about the GPL and enforcement of the GPL since 1999,” Bradley Kuhn said in the FSF’s statement. “They also demand every document and email that we have exchanged with Linus Torvalds, IBM, and other players in the community. In many cases, they are asking for information that is confidential communication between us and our lawyers, or between us and our contributors.”

The group, a non-profit founded by free software pioneer Richard Stallman, said that while FSF "will not betray our legally protected confidences," there are substantial costs associated with any of its options in responses to the SCO subpoena. Kuhn appealed to Linux supporters to join the FSF to support its work, which has benefits for the broader open source movement.

"If we fight the subpoena, it means substantial legal fees associated with litigation," Kuhn wrote. "If we produce materials, it means substantial effort to gather the relevant documents. Even though we'll be reimbursed for the direct costs, the indirect costs in staff time will be ours to bear."

SCO contends that Linux includes copyrighted code from its own operating system, and is suing IBM. The company is also asking Linux users to pay $699 per server for the right to use its intellectual property.

The text of the SCO subpoena can be found here (PDF format).