What would you do if you got an invoice from a company demanding payment for software that youve never bought from them? Throw it in the trash, right?
Suppose it also threatened you with legal action if you didnt comply? According to the National Fraud Information Center, you should turn it over to your local law-enforcement agents. Now, suppose the company is The SCO Group Inc. and the product is any Linux distribution using the Linux 2.4 kernel or higher.
I talked with Blake Stowell, SCO director of corporate communications, and he told me that while not "a single drop of ink has been used to make one invoice" so far, SCO is planning on sending out a "minimum of one thousand invoices as early as late September but no later than sometime in October." SCO will be targeting business users; the company is "not concerned at all with Linux users at home," Blake told me.
Thank goodness for that, anyway, but I have to ask, "Havent you considered that this could leave you wide open for all kinds of countersuits based on attempted fraud?" He told me that SCO legal had green-lighted the project.
After all, Stowell tells me, "We want to give Linux 2.4 kernel users a fair opportunity to compensate SCO for its intellectual property."
Wow. With chances like this, who needs missed opportunities?
I cant see much use for this document outside the bathroom. Seriously, theres no way on earth I can see anyone paying it, but I would take it to my lawyer and have her look it over very closely. And, yes, Id at least toy with the idea of suing SCO.
Ive always believed that SCOs new executives—up to and including CEO Darl McBride—really do believe that own the IP in Linux. I think theyre dead wrong, but I also think that theyre sincerely dead wrong.
This time, though, I just dont get it. Billing companies for software theyve already paid other vendors for on unproven allegations that SCO Unix code is hidden inside Linux? This plan is just crazy and (to my untrained, non-lawyer eye), it comes dangerously close to fraud.
Making it all even more surreal is that SCO hasnt been able to get its act together to sell its SCO Intellectual Property License for Linux to Linux using businesses that want to buy it!
SCO has been doing its best to make its fight against Linux a public one. Thats because, in my not-very-humble opinion, it thinks its got a better chance of winning in the business world than it does in the court room. SCOs probably right. And, in the short run, it certainly helps the companys stock price.
But this? No one in the Linux business will ever work with SCO again, but with this move, even companies that dont care a hoot what operating system is running on their servers are going to be ticked off. And, I, for one, wont be a bit surprised if SCO gets buried in countersuits.
Now, Ive never agreed with SCOs recent legal posturing. But, for the most part, I could see why the moves made sense to it. This time though ... Well, when I was a kid, a cousin of mine stuck a stick down a yellowjackets nest entry and poked around to kill them. Then he took the stick out. I still remember the look on his face when the nests survivors came out and stung the heck out of him. Be warned, SCO: This is one yellowjacket nest you probably dont want to stir up.
What do you think? Is SCO going to get stung? Any suggestions about what to do with an SCO invoice? Drop me a note in the eWEEK forum, and lets talk about it.
Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about Unix and Linux since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.
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