In a moment of pure selfishness, showing disregard and disrespect to the entire online technology community, the High Excuser for copyright theft herself, Pamela Jones, is closing down Groklaw.
No, I don't mean it. Pamela Jones — PJ — has been running Groklaw for nearly eight years and, as the calendar strikes eight years exactly, will be shutting the doors and getting on with her life. On Saturday April 9, she posted "I have decided that Groklaw will stop publishing new articles on our anniversary, May 16". That's eight years of hard work, sweating over legal and technical details, and absorbing frequent ad hominems such as that sentence above. And a lot worse.
Groklaw was a reaction to events. A company called SCO decided that Linux infringed its intellectual rights in Unix — or was it a company called Caldera decided that IBM infringed its intellectual rights in Unix? Or that companies using Linux needed a Unix licence? Or...
Even now it's hard to get the facts straight. When companies go wrong and decide to litigate instead of innovate, the fog can be choking. And that's the way they like it, especially when as here the claims are fatuous, flatulent and false. And surprisingly well funded.
But SCO lost, and in the process we learned a lot. We learned that, actually, patience and hard work can win out, even when you're right and even in court. That the world of American intellectual property and contract law, if you're caught up in it and want to get on with life or work, is curiously like being trapped on a marshmallow planet when you're starving for a steak.
We also learned quite how far some would go in spinning the least convincing stances into vitriol: quite why some people said what they did remains unanswered.
And all because PJ said that something's wrong, let's find out why. Without her, I have no doubt, the open source/free software community would look a lot less fearsome to the leathery-winged lawyers of special interests. There'd be less confidence, more despair, and far, far, less legal expertise out here in the wilds.
In an ideal world, Groklaw would have a business model, or at least funding, for a small team to continue its work. PJ says that one of the reasons Groklaw is over is because its work is done and Linux has won — look at the mobile world, look at enterprise computing. Ah, if only. Microsoft still claims — and actively litigates for — IP rights in Linux, and Lord only knows how the Java/Oracle fun will end. We're still in the woods. Groklaw will be most sorely missed, and I hope very much that others will take up the challenge.
But PJ herself has done more than anyone could ask. Those eight years that she spent at the helm were eight years giving us all an education, making a difference, teaching us how the world works — and all she asked in return was truth, fairness and a bit of work digging the fields.