How to score SCO's legal games

How to score SCO's legal games

Summary: Now SCO's got Novell in its sights, but where is the company really aiming?

TOPICS: Tech Industry

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.

Topic: Tech Industry

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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  • excellent story
    i agree the Groklaw site is fantastic and always the news is complete as they can find.the collaboration between all is amazing.and the ones that do understand break it down to where those who lack the knowledge can understand what it all means

  • Groklaw has become an addictive necesity for the SCO v. IBM suit. aggregating and disecting, proving and disproving all aspects of this monumental event.
  • Pamela Jones deserve much praise. Although a lot of people contribute to GrokLaw, none of it would have been possible without her vision and leadership.

    And I just love it when she sticks it to them with class.

  • Groklaw reminds me of a VERY young slashdot: intelligent discussion with civilized disagreement and a healthy respect for others opinions.

    Of course, this was a slashdot long ago and far away.

    PJ has done a great job, considering she's had to move the website twice since it's inception. I have a feeling that she could actually marshall the resources of us 'geeks' into a very productive force were she so desirous. Once this SCO thing is over, I'd like to see her tackle IP reform.

    And she HAS promised a book! ;-)
  • The first article I have seen on ZDNET concerning this whole affair that actuallly demonsrtated that the reporter in question did more research than getting a few quotes from Darl Mcbride.

    Quoting one side of this argument without looking at all the evidence to the contrary opens any reporter who does the preceding, wide open to accusations of favoritism on the part of SCO.

    God knows, they have been vocal enough, yet so far their actual legal actions amount to accusing IBM of violations of contract law. They have sued by others, but so far, only that one suiit is in play and so far they have failed in any substantial way to sopport their case.

    Of course, the case currently in the news is IBM's counter suit and not SCO's at all. It seems it will take them a year and a half to gather together evidience sufficient to support their own case,

    And that, despite all their claims of self evident IP violations. Why even analysts unskilled in progarmming were able to see it at a glance and make pronouncements as to its validity.

    If accusations alone were all it took to win a legal suit, SCO would be in great shape, but since they aren't, SCO will have to come up with something that will convince both a judge and jury.

    So far there is no evidence that they can or will.

    I congratulate ZDNET on their perspicacity in finally finding someone who knows how to research both sides of a story- and who has a sense of humor too.

    A pity you couldn't have done it sooner.


  • Hey Ignorance is a blessing, but not for
  • They have found a way to bottle it. It's called "Linux".