Well, it seems to be official. After more rumblings, denials of rumblings, rumblings about the denials of rumblings, SCO is now playing hardball (or is that harderball?). The beleagured Linux company formerly known as Caldera is now claiming that some UNIX code is hidden in the Linux kernel, but will not release the information Free Software developers need to try to fix the problem. Instead, SCO CEO Darl McBride refuses to release that information out of fear the community would “launder the evidence.”
Yeah, right McBride. A community that publishes all of the source code to its kernel is some how going to be able to obfuscate the alleged SCO IP into apparently legal IP? If you believe that, I have this really nice piece of prime swamp land for sale down in Florida — blank checks are accepted.
The CNet article also suggests that SCO does not want to sue Red Hat or SuSE, but also notes that McBride said the “company didn't have a desire to sue IBM either.” Perhaps this is a good time for Red Hat & Co. to find a good lawyer on retainer? If I was SuSE, I'd break up UnitedLinux, or at least remove SCO from it, faster than you can say “SCO's a backstabber.”
SCO is destroying its reputation over this almost quixotic suit, which shows bad business sense at the very least. From the beginning, they have used language that clearly seemed to indicate that if Linux wasn't actually the target, it at least deserved some of the punishment (in the form of FUD — fear, uncertainty and doubt — directed toward it). If the suit was really about IBM, none of this would be necessary.
Today's news reveals that the company isn't interested just in getting IBM back for alleged wrong doing — it shows that they wish to destabilize their main competitor: GNU/Linux. SCO realizes that Linux is the main alternative it has to fear, indeed, Linux is slowly eating away UNIX's market share and they don't like that one bit.
If SCO simply wanted to resolve IP issues it could do so in a gentlemanly fashion. It could let the community it grew up in know what they were doing wrong, as I'm quite sure the Free Software community would gladly stop violating any SCO copyrights as soon as they knew what the problem was. Instead, SCO is going to keep the information until court proceedings, allowing it to milk the findings for every drop of PR worth they can get out of them.
Is there really UNIX IP theft going on here? Maybe, maybe not. It could be that the similar code is really BSD derived. It could just be a coincidence. Or it could really be illegal code, but illegal code that will remain illegal since SCO won't help the community know what code is even the problem.
Instead, the Utah-based company's chosen path fits perfectly with observer's comments about the company. First, it provides a way to place Linux in an intellectual property limbo, perhaps making those planning to adopt it more likely to go elsewhere (queue the SCO marketing department). Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it forces the community to continue to distribute code that violates SCO's IP, if it even does, thus allowing the company to demand larger payouts for damages from Linux distributions, hardware vendors, and others involved with GNU/Linux.
Any business considering purchasing, recommending, or supplying SCO-based solutions should think again before continuing to work with that company. SCO has continued to show that its main concern is hanging on to its aged UNIX code base and not finding the best ways to create better products.
I said it before, and I'll say again, “SCO Needs to Go,” and if they need a hand opening the door on the way, perhaps the community should offer to give them a hand.
Timothy R. Butler is Editor-in-Chief of Open for Business. You can reach him at tbutler@uninetsolutions. com.