But SCO's biggest problem is Darl McBride's mouth. Every time the man breathes out, the sparks of controversy burst into flame. He and his cronies have been cruising the world in search of soapboxes from which to shrilly preach their fundamentalist stance; that SCO begat Unix and Unix begat Linux and by golly it's time to honour thy grandfather. Normally, supporting your company in public is a perfectly respectable pastime, but when you're trying to build a house of cards, the last thing you should do is blow hard and wave your hands like a madman.
And with each pronouncement, the armies of opposition get more ammunition. Imagine what would have happened if SCO had filed its court case, then done a Baystar and shut the flip up. There would still be speculation, of course, but at a hundredth of today's levels. Each florid pronouncement from Darl and his henchmen has spawned a new thread in Groklaw and hundreds of nit-picking replies. Each statement provokes a scurry back through the archives for context and rebuttal: each little Darling grain is swiftly turned into a pearl. By now Groklaw's Pamela Jones has a string of the things that would make Marge Simpson jealous.
Not so good for Darl, who is currently looking down the barrel of Baystar's corporate Magnum, but the result has been great for the rest of us. We've enjoyed a free first-class education in the esoteric world of intellectual property and corporate shenanigans. This is the planet on which the major IT wars of the 21st century will be fought -- before SCO, few of us knew this, let alone had much chance of getting a map of the place. We've learned once again that the online community can inherit the traditional power of the press to battle the biggest monsters -- again, mapping out the shape of things to come.
This isn't Dallas -- it's not soap opera at all. It's reality TV. We might be watching, but we're also the actors on stage. The story without us would be very different: this sort of realisation triggers revolution.
Baystar knows all this too, and doesn't appreciate our schooling at its expense. It's almost certainly too late to fix SCO, but by killing its management and keeping the IP claims on life support, something may be retrieved -- even if it's only face, an invaluable commodity in the venture-capital community. That it would be forced to make this move in public, a sanction that is indistinguishable to SCO from the threat of a massive legal fine and the judicial removal of its officers, marks an exceptional moment in modern capitalism.
The rules of the game for future players are now ice-clear: anything you say will be taken down and analysed for thousands of hours by people with access to all the resources of the Net. You better be right, or you better keep quiet: justice, free software style. Today is the day the law went open source.