Behind SCO's open source challenge

Behind SCO's open source challenge

Summary: That which does not kill me, makes me stronger

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TOPICS: IT Employment
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Three and a half years ago, a company called the SCO Group took another company called International Business Machines Corporation to court. Among many other sins, said SCO, IBM had misappropriated intellectual property by stealing parts of Unix and putting them in Linux. If true, enormous implications would follow for open source in general and Linux in particular.

The subsequent course of this and related cases has not been kind to SCO. To the frustration of many, including the judge, the company has been unable or unwilling to provide specific evidence of infraction. Quite the opposite: not only has no stolen code been revealed, but the company's claims of Unix IP ownership are now looking very shaky.

Few are surprised. Despite many grandiose statements and much early bluster, SCO's marked reluctance to provide specifics persuaded most observers early on that, barring some bizarre re-reading of the law, the case was substantially without merit. This must have been obvious to the company and its lawyers then — and 10 times as much now.

So why did SCO do it? Did it believe it would win the case on its merits, or was it gunning for an early settlement from an opponent unwilling to put up a fight? An old journalistic maxim is to follow the money, and a new submission to the court reveals a large smoking bundle of the stuff.

Immediately prior to the court case, SCO received $50m in funding from an investment company called BayStar. In the submission by BayStar founder Lawrence Goldfarb, he states that this investment followed discussions with senior Microsoft staff, including managing director of intellectual property Kenneth Lustig. Informal promises were made that MS would guarantee BayStar's SCO investment. Likewise, SCO's chief executive Darl McBride and lawyer David Boies said IBM would settle quickly.

Armed with these assurances, Goldfarb says, BayStar made the investment. Some time later, having seen no evidence that the court case would end successfully and after Microsoft had stopped returning calls, Baystar bailed — losing tens of millions of dollars on the deal. Microsoft says merely that it had no investment in BayStar and that it gave no guarantee — neither of which contradicts the statement.

One can question the wisdom of making a $50m investment on the basis of promises and spin. Indeed, one can assign incompetence, greed, manipulation and wishful thinking to various players in various measure. But there's no denying that whatever the original intentions of the bringers of the case and under almost any conceivable outcome on the current evidence, open source has done very well out of SCO's actions.

The intensive examination of Linux IP that has resulted leaves the operating system stronger and safer than ever — while its attackers look shabbier by the day. This is good for competition, good for innovation and good for the industry.

Thanks, Larry. Perhaps that $50m was wisely invested, after all.

Topic: IT Employment

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  • The thing looks obvious and the conspiracy surfaces once the people see who is the black hand behind the SCO case no matter MS admitted or not. Open source wins!
    anonymous
  • This stab in the back from MS to one of its friends is a small sample of what MS really is all about. This is the real face of the culture of that company; rotten treacherous. But as its software code this is hiden and secret, most people never know that what is behind is so bad.

    Yet the user experience with that software is allways full of clues about it : Expensive software, incompatible with industry standards, unreliable, usntrustable, real lower performance when compared to what all the noisy marketing says, incomplete you get just the OS and that does not do anything, a browser that is a magnet for viruses, woms and trojan horses, you need to buy and buy and buy more expensive, incompatible MS software.

    Open software is transparent, for every one to see. There are many choices and most of then just work, they don't cost and arm an leg, are Industry standard, and are much more efficient with your hardware, which leads to better performance. No need to buy a new computer every time you upgrade software. Most users never need to see the source, but if they want, is there, open to be seen and change. No S*&?%y license, no trowing your money down the rats hole before seeing if what you bought works and worth the money spent.

    User of the MS proprietary secret closed software are stabed in the back time and again, when they find every time that all the noisy marketing anounced features are just lies, upon lies upon lies. They can never see what is in the inside of the software they buy, but due to its bad behavior they should suspect that the software must be full of crap, just as the company behind it.
    anonymous