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Lying or Incompetent? (SCO Lawsuit)

© October 2003 Tony Lawrence

Sun Oct 12 11:11:00 GMT 2003 Lying or Incompetent? (SCO Lawsuit)

Link: Why SCO Started All This. No. Really.

The link above is a recent transcription of a tape interview from last summer.

Since then, nothing much has really changed. RedHat has countersued, IBM is making noises about SCO infringing its patents, and the dance goes on. Some of the Linux crowd is reacting badly (from a recent newsgroup post):

SCO Group are a pack of scum sucking thieves out to perpetuate a swindle on the entire Linux using community. SCO Group officials are lying on a daily basis in order to further this swindle.

I think it's rather more than doubtful that is true at all. At the very worst, SCO's claims about copyrighted code are complete nonsense. If so, then they are a bunch of incompetent boobs who ran off half-cocked with incorrect information. That's possible. The lineage of Unix is very confusing and difficult. It wouldn't astound me to learn that everything they thought was stolen was not.

Or, they really have the evidence. Again, quite possible. It's a little difficult to have faith in that given their bumbling so far, but we certainly have to say it could be.

Or maybe, as usual, its something in the middle. Something people can argue about, but something that the courts will settle.

I don't think it really matters.

Oh, yeah, it matters to SCO, their stockholders etc. It matters to IBM, though probably to a lesser degree: win or lose, IBM isn't going to change very much. But whether or not SCO has a legitimate case probably isn't what's important now.

I think what is important is what damage is done to Linux and Open Source in general. If the GPL can't stand up in court, what then? It's open season on open source, and noises about "no, then it becomes protected by regular copyright" are probably more wishful than real.

There's also danger from the patent front. Part of IBM's defense may be, "OK, yeah, that's your copyrighted stuff, but what it DOES is covered by half a dozen of our patents". It is an unfortunate reality that many, many things have been patented that never should have been, and IBM is one who holds more than a few of those. I would hope nothing like this could happen, but it's possible that IBM could end up with judgements that cause it to look down into the bag and realize "it's all mine now.. all of it". Watch how fast IBM would drop all the Open Source support if they were in that position. I want to believe that couldn't happen, but court decisions in silly things like the Eola Case seemed just as unlikely, but happened nonetheless.

So, SCO has let a pretty nasty cat out of the bag. Don't be too hard on them though: if they hadn't, someone else was sure to. Money, and the protection of same, would bring it out sooner or later. Fact is, Linux and Open Source threaten the establishment, and have done so from a flank they didn't expect and weren't prepared to deal with. Well, the "dealing with" has started, and it's not going to be pretty.

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