SCOs Legal Wrangles Take an Odd, Personal Turn

Opinion: What happens when a recalcitrant reporter becomes the story in the seemingly never-ending SCO-vs.-the-world saga?

In todays blog-filled universe, you dont have to be the New York Times to make an impact with a story.

Take the recent attempts of Apple to shut down bloggers who report on Tiger or whats been going on recently with Pamela "PJ" Jones, the editor and lead-writer of the legal news and opinion site Groklaw.

Jones is a paralegal and journalist. Groklaw, for those of you who havent been following the endless battles of SCO vs. the world, is the ur-site of all primary materials—legal petitions, court-papers and so on—for SCOs many legal cases.

The site is used by everyone, including SCO, as the reference desk for SCOs many Unix, Linux and contractual cases. Groklaw, also, in its editorials and news stories, has a very strong pro-open-source and anti-SCO slant.

SCO, understandably, has not been amused by Groklaws almost-daily examination of its every business and legal move, past and present.

In fact, Darl McBride, SCOs CEO, has accused PJ as being a front for anti-SCO parties, such as IBM, and that shes not who she says she is—a paralegal whos also a journalist.

In fact, McBride said in SCOs first quarter results report, "if you look at the reality of the Pamela Jones situation, you have to conclude that all is not as appeared as it is in Groklaw land. We appreciate that many media sources disagree with us, but theyre accountable. We think you need to know whos behind the news."

SCOs CEO would not go so far as to say Jones was working for IBM, but "were digging into who Pam Jones is, and were close to the bottom."

Jones, who is reportedly very shy, has been extremely protective of her privacy.

Her privacy, however, was blown apart recently by a "reporter" named Maureen OGara, who, while unable to find any smoking gun of Jones being involved with IBM, nevertheless published personal details of what may or may not be Jones life in LBW (Linux Business Week).

OGara, while unable to conclude that the person she "outed" was PJ, nevertheless published photographs of Jones home and published the addresses, phone numbers and e-mail contacts not only for Jones, but for her mother and her son as well.

This story has since been taken down. Indeed, according to James Turner, a senior editor for LinuxWorld—a sister publication to LBW from the same publisher, SYS-CON—SYS-CONs publisher has said, "Maureen OGaras bylined material will no longer appear anywhere in the Sys-Con universe of sites or publications."

Heck, even Blake Stowell, PR director of SCO, said of the matter, "Certainly we dont condone reporters digging to uncover things about peoples personal lives that should remain private."

Nevertheless, we live in a time when bloggers, especially those who tread the fine line between journalism and just speaking their mind, are going to have to get used to living under a microscope.

Apple and SCO are only the first companies to take bloggers/journalists to task. They wont be the last.

Without the protection of a journalists status or a major publisher, would-be authors of sites such as Think Secret and Groklaw are going to face hounding and possible legal action.

The good ones, like PJ, will stay the course. But, make no mistake about it, it hasnt been easy on her, and it wont be easy for anyone who follows in her whistleblower footsteps.

Oh, and by the way, Pamela Jones really does exist. Ive met her.

Thats not really the point, though. The point is that Groklaw stories tend to be meticulously researched and, when an error is made—and theres always mistakes in this world—PJ corrects them.

That doesnt mean, by the way, that I think shes always right.

Believe it or not, I, a frequent SCO critic myself, actually think that SCO does have some valid points in its claims that it was given the dirty end of the stick in how IBM closed down Project Monterey, their joint attempt to make a Unix that would run on both 64-bit Intel and POWER processors.

PJ disagrees and doesnt think that their position has any merit.

We look at the same materials, and come to different conclusions.

Thats life, thats journalism, and eventually, in the Apple and SCO cases, that will be the courts. Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.