With SCO spraying out threats of legal action like a tomcat on diuretics, this latest piece of territorial widdle might seem like an attempt to put the legal frighteners on a competitor rather than a justifiable defence of SCO's core business -- unless SCO's core business now is taking people to court. The company is handing over hunks of shares to its lawyers: this can't be ruled out.
But is there anything to it? One may be expert in the details of Linux and Unix, and perhaps understand half what's going on: one may be a commercial lawyer and be comfortable with the other half. Trying to untangle the chimera at the interface of technology and law is enough to send anyone off to take up a simpler job, like quantum chromodynamics.
But hold on before you brush up your Feynman: there is one good thing that's come out of all this The unofficial nexus of the SCO affair is Groklaw, a bulletin board turned into a Web site. Here, you can find lawyers and code hackers busily engaged in pulling the bones out of every pronouncement that falls from the mouth of Darl McBride, CEO of SCO, and his merry men. SCO says it's sent IBM all the examples of the code it claims IBM infringes in Linux? Well, here's a Unix guy who's shown the 'infringing code' so produced was produced by a simple text search for certain words in the Linux source -- and proof of nothing at all.
As for the 'non-competing' clause in the Novell-SCO agreement: you can argue about exactly what it protects, and whether Linux has anything to do with it. People on Groklaw are doing just that, and it looks no more substantial than anything else SCO has said. But you can't argue with the fact that the same clause says that it will terminate if there's a change of control of SCO -- and in 2000, SCO was bought by Caldera. Steady your nerves, chaps.
Groklaw is a sterling example of Internet interdisciplinary cooperation between experts and concerned parties. The discussions are impassioned but controlled, and documenting arguments is the order of the day. Heavily spiced with links and excerpts from many sources, the rule is -- if you don't understand, ask. If you know something of import, tell.
When this whole sorry affair is over and BB King can get on with writing the Ballard Of Black Dog McBride, Groklaw will stand as a monument to how a community under threat can gather its resources and calmly set about restoring sanity in a hurricane of bluster. If anyone can find a way to bottle this, it may even all have been worth it.