Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 1/7/2004Another week, another series of fun SCO disclosures. The latest intriguing, innovative and lawyer-frightening claim is that ex-SCO customer DaimlerChrysler is in breach of a licence for software DC stopped using seven years ago.

Thursday 1/7/2004
Another week, another series of fun SCO disclosures. The latest intriguing, innovative and lawyer-frightening claim is that ex-SCO customer DaimlerChrysler is in breach of a licence for software DC stopped using seven years ago. Why is this? Because one of the conditions of the licence was that on request, a SCO customer has to divulge the list of 'authorised CPUs' on which the software runs. DaimlerChrysler, having not run the software for the best part of a decade, quite reasonably replied with "There are nil CPUs".

"Aha!" said SCO. "Nil is not a list. You owe us a list. We'll see you in court."

Yes, really.

You may remember, if you can bear to think about it, that SCO's main gripe was that Linux contained stolen Unix code -- and by extension, all open-source software was suspect, because you just never knew. As IBM pointed out this week, after more than a year of litigation SCO has failed to show a single line of this abducted code -- and if you were going to nick code, the stupidest place to put it would be in open source software where everyone could see.

You can get away with it, however, in proprietary, closed-source software. Whether this is what's happened with Google's beta-y community service, Orkut, isn't clear -- but another company, Affinity Engines, claims so. It'll doubtless go to court, but so far there's no doubt of some of the facts: Affinity Engines was started in order to develop community software and employed Orkut Buyukkokten -- the eponymous inventor. Orkut subsequently went to Google. Affinity says it has spotted many points of similarity to its development system, including nine bugs: Google says no, and that Affinity has refused the services of a neutral arbitrator. Off to the judge we go, tra-la.

It's positively refreshing to see a case like this develop, with the promise of proper facts, clear reasoning and a black and white decision to be made. But much more of this sort of thing will definitely take the shine off Google, whether the company wins or not: the real world is catching up.

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