SCO Trying to Hold Industry for Ransom

By David Coursey  |  Posted 2004-06-10

SCO Trying to Hold Industry for Ransom

Thinking about SCOs chances of prevailing in its battle against Linux, I am reminded of a cartoon I once saw. It shows a scientist—probably a physicist—in front of a blackboard covered with figures and calculations. The final calculation ends with the notation, "A miracle occurs!"

I may not remember the cartoon totally accurately, but the problem is the same: The only way for SCO to win, in any equation I can imagine, is for a miracle to occur.

And the whole mess would be funny except that on the off chance that SCO wins, the result could devastate Linux and extract large sums from the companies using it.

I dont really care that much about Linux, but SCOs behavior removes it from the community of honorable industry players. Dragging customers into this battle was incredibly bad form.

Based on its most recent financials, SCO has enough money to soldier on for perhaps two years or more, by my calculation. But the unseen hand of Microsoft, or its allies and agents, could allow the company to continue its legal battle indefinitely.

Now, I cant prove that Microsoft was behind BayStars attempt to gain control of SCO and turn it into solely a litigation machine. There is no smoking gun with Redmonds fingerprints, but Microsoft did send BayStar in SCOs direction in the first place.

And I can imagine that BayStar boss Larry Goldfarb would be as happy as the company says it is if Microsoft were compensating BayStar in some form or fashion.

Next Page: IBM seems cozy with Novells claims to Unix.

Novells Claims

IBM, meanwhile, seems to be all cozy with Novell and its argument that Novell, not SCO, is the real owner of Unix.

This looks like one of those "my enemys enemy is my friend" situations, except that IBM and Novell were sorta close before the pleadings started to fly. I hope theyre happy together.

This whole mess would be little more than an entertaining final chapter of the breakup of AT&T, except that should SCO win, its likely to demand tribute from the Linux community at a level that could make Linux, at least as we know it, go away.

And such a win would make customers unlikely to ever buy anything ever again that doesnt have a completely clean title.

Maybe theres money to be made in the future by ensuring companies—such as through title insurance—that the software they buy isnt infringing on someone elses intellectual property.

Meanwhile, Id feel better about this if SCO were only willing to—well, I am now imagining Clara Peller from the old hamburger commercial demanding to know, "Wheres the beef?"

In SCOs case, if there is any beef, the company isnt willing to produce it. If there is infringing code in Linux, SCO needs to show it to us. The collective opinion of people I know who are following the case is that SCO doesnt have one.

As someone who owns and creates intellectual property, I am all for protecting it. I was, for example, very much in favor of putting the Napster founders in jail.

At the same time, I hate people who abuse the system. And the ownership of Unix is so murky—thank AT&T for this—that it opens the door to abusive slime such as SCO to try to hold up an entire industry for ransom.

I dont think it will succeed, but I really wish it would just dematerialize for the benefit of all humankind.

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