SCO Group: Mini-Me trying to be Darth Vader

It’s been a long road but the end of The SCO Group is in sight

Sometime before March 2003 The SCO Group decided that making products that people might want to buy was passe and decided to get into the "business" of filing lawsuits instead. Their first target was IBM but they soon expanded their scope to take on the entire open source community and scores of businesses actually trying to do things that benefited society. It's been a long road since then but the end is now in site - the end of The SCO Group that is.

I've written about The SCO Group a number of times ("Slime for sale,", A quiz about 2006, Microsoft: Delaying product, spewing FUD and "SCO's last gasp?"). I expect this will be my next-to-last column on them -- the column that I expect to be the last one, not lamenting their passing, may come soon.

On March 6, 2003 The SCO Group sued IBM claiming that IBM had done all sorts of bad things with SCO Group intellectual property rights (IPR) and asking for a billion dollars or so to right the alleged wrongs. The lawsuit all depended on the statement in paragraph 18 of the complaint: "SCO is the present owner of all software code and licensing rights to System V Technology."

On August 10, Judge Dale A. Kimball ruled that SCO was in error when they wrote that paragraph. The judge ruled that SCO does not own the copyrights to Unix. He also ruled that Novell could force SCO to drop all actions against IBM that depended on such ownership and, to complete the picture, that SCO owes Novell a pile of money of yet to be determined size. These rulings more than take the wind out of SCO's sails, they are likely SCO's death notice -- and this could not happen to nicer people.

After suing IBM SCO went after the Linux community, saying that they wanted US$700 license fee per machine to pay for what they claimed were millions of lines of SCO-owned code on Linux. They even sued a few companies that were using Linux. SCO made it very clear that it would be quite happy if Linux, as an open source software effort, was killed by SCO's actions. The move that resulted in the current ruling was SCO deciding to sue Novell when Novell had the audacity to point out that SCO did not actually own the Unix copyrights.

Even before this ruling SCO's case against IBM was in deep trouble after they were only able to point to 326 lines of possibly infringing code in Linux and after the court tossed many of SCO's contentions against IBM ("SCO Group's last gasp?").

The same judge who ruled that SCO did not have the IPR they claimed to have is presiding over the IBM case. According to Groklaw, the incredibly well done site that has been following the case, he has now ordered that the parties in that case present statements of the impact of his Novell decision on the IBM case by the end of the month. It looks from these developments that the SCO cases and thus, SCO itself, are toast.

Because of the facts of the case, we are about to be rid of a Mini-Me-sized company that aspired to be Darth Vader -- destroying Linux and extracting tribute from IBM and the open source federation. That leaves a rather different threat still pending. Microsoft continues to hint that it has a Death Star that is about ready to fire on and destroy open source. Like SCO, Microsoft will not actually show anyone what violations they think they have uncovered. Maybe, in the end, Microsoft will be shown to have as little behind the curtain as SCO had. Until then, lets rejoice that the end is near for one slime merchant.

Disclaimer: Harvard has seen a lot of slime merchants come and go but has not expressed an opinion on this one.

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Scott Bradner

Network World
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