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Sunday, 29 November, 2020

The SCO Group Sues the World

Date: 17 September, 2003

By: Chief

Imagehose who follow the tech world will note that The SCO Group (SCOG) has sued IBM. Even folks who do not follow the tech world should note that IBM is a pretty big company, with even deeper pockets and SCOG is — who? Most people have never heard of SCOG.

Here is a little bit of background. The Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) has been in business for over 20 years. They decided to sell their Unix, an operating system, assets to a company named Novell. Novell has been in the computer software business for many years as well. Novell in turn sold the certain parts or rights of the Unix operating system to a company named Caldera. Caldera has been in business since around the mid 1990's. Caldera was, at that time, a GNU/Linux software company. Caldera decided to merge, though that maybe the wrong word to describe it, the two operating systems or bits and pieces thereof. Caldera subsequently decided to get rid of its CEO and brought in an entire new executive management team. This team is headed by one Darl McBride. To say McBride is a scoundrel is being exceedingly polite. So is vermin. However, I digress. Under this new leadership Caldera decided to shed its company name and took the 'new' name of the SCO Group.

That in and of itself can be quite confusing. Deliberately so, methinks.

So, you now have a company that — purportedly — owns some rights to the Unix operating system and also creates a GNU/Linux operating system. The confusion grows larger.

Now since the suit was filed things are becoming somewhat less murky. SCOG wants to have its cake and eat it too. It is as simple as that.

One of the claims that SCOG is making against IBM — there are many — is that IBM stole code that SCOG purportedly owns and illegally placed the code into the Linux kernel. A kernel is the core of a computer operating system. Kinda like a car engine. If your car has all the parts in place except the engine you ain't going very far.

How this case turns out is anybody's guess. With our court system, such as it is, what may appear to be a slam dunker could turn out to be the exact opposite. You just never know.

SCOG has some real big hurdles to clear in this case. First of all is the fact that the kernel was written from — scratch. There is utterly no way the kernel could possibly be construed as belonging to SCOG. Secondly is the mere fact that the kernel was released under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Therefore the source code that makes up the kernel is available for all the world to see, comment on and/or change. As a side note, the kernel has been undergoing constant development since 1991. That is, um, twelve years. Twelve years and nobody has reported any "infringing" code? That does not compute. Third is the fact that quite a bit of the Unix code has been released under either the public domain or under the BSD software license. Fourth is another fact that some of the code is legally considered a "standard" and, as such, can not be patented or copy-righted by anybody.

So how in the world SCOG is going to make a successful case of IBM stealing "its" code is beyond me. Time and discovery will be the telling source.

However, if you look at the financial statements of both companies, SCOG and IBM, you find something quite interesting. IBM is making a real healthy profit and its stock is doing well. SCOG, on the other hand, has been losing money since its birth and its stock is in the toilet. Therefore one could hazard a guess that the suit is strictly a nuisance suit, a tactical ploy, from SCOG in order for, they hope, IBM to buy them out. Will that happen? I have no idea. Somehow though, and IBM has so far remained very quiet on this whole suit business, if IBM thinks that SCOG is full of shit I do not think IBM will buy them out. Let the chips fall where they may as the old saying goes.

You see, over the past few years IBM has invested millions of dollars into GNU/Linux. IBM has, from what I have read, a few thousand programmers who do nothing but work on the GNU/Linux code and making current IBM products fully compatible with GNU/Linux. Not being a programmer, I would assume that that is not an easy thing to do. I could be wrong.

Unlike IBM who, as I've already written, is keeping quiet on this whole thing, Motor-Mouth McBride is bumping his gums to no end. One advantage of this strategy if it comes to pass is that all this talk by McBride could possibly run up the SCOG stock price. Let's get real, SCOG's current stock price could not get much worse. A higher stock price based upon what I call the 'hot air balloon theory' will help the executives at SCOG because of their stock options — but not for very long. Court cases, especially civil cases, can take a long, long time to be resolved.

Something else that is very entertaining, to say the least, is the fact that recently SCOG has decided to send threatening letters — to commercial customers of GNU/Linux warning them that they may be liable for alleged 'IP' infringement. Talk about putting the cart before the horse. The suit that was brought against IBM by SCOG not so very long ago has not, got that - not, been settled and here is SCOG beating their chest and threatening GNU/Linux customers with legal action. Not a very smart strategy at all if you ask me. I do believe it will come back to bite them dead square in the ass.

Motor-Mouth is claiming a whole bunch of copy-righted code was stolen from them and put into the kernel. Well Motor-Mouth, walk the walk. Don't just talk the talk. Show the code. Show it for the whole world to see and comment on. Let — the programmers — judge whether the code is "infringing."

Sniff ... sniff ... why I do believe that I smell the stench of a dying corpse ... er ... company — SCOG that has not been buried yet and desperately needs to be. Hopefully I am right and IBM will fight this thing tooth and nail and when the smoke clears and the dust settles we can all attend the long overdue funeral of the SCOG. I, however, shall not attend. SCOG is not worth it to me.

Litigation does not a good business make. Not for the long term anyway. Motor-Mouth McBride will, in due time, find that out.

[Ed. note: Story update] Per Wikipedia:

"On August 30, 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed SCO's loss to Novell in the second jury/bench trial. SCO's appellate brief had argued that there were evidentiary errors and other issues at trial. The affirmed verdict held that Novell did not transfer the UNIX copyrights to SCO in the amended asset purchase agreement, and that Novell has the right to waive certain alleged license violations."

Told ya.

[Ed. note: This story has been updated.]

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