Update on the Strange SCO Case

Posted by Eric Fri, 14 Mar 2003 00:00:00 GMT

Eric Raymond is preparing an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief for the SCO case. Some highlights:

  • SCO's code is contaminated. The obsolete AT&T/USL Unix source (which SCO owns) is heavily contaminated with misattributed work taken from the open source BSD Unix. Whoops.
  • SCO doesn't have enterprise expertise. SCO has never been a player in the enterprise Unix market they talk so much about--they have lackluster SMP support, no logical volume manager, no NUMA support, no hot-swapping support, and so on. Basically, SCO is "Unix for McDonald's cash registers". So the claim that IBM--with over a century of enterprise computing knowledge--stole vital trade secrets from SCO is laughable. Raymond writes: "SCO is alleging that IBM misappropriated from SCO technologies which do not appear in SCO's own top-of-the-line product."

The always-insightful Linux Weekly News also quotes Karsten M. Self at length. Some highlights:

  • SCO thinks Linus can't read POSIX. SCO apparently can't believe that Linux runs Unix software without have done something dishonest: "the mathematical probability of a customer being able to recreate the SCO OpenServer Shared Libraries [SCO's implementation of the Unix API] without unauthorized access to or use of the source code of the SCO OpenServer Shared Libraries is nil". In case SCO hasn't noticed, the Unix API is government purchasing standard.
  • IBM isn't sloppy about releasing code. Contrary to SCO's claims, IBM is extremely cautious about other people's code and trade secrets. Karsten quotes an IBM developer: "Open Sourcing something within IBM requires jumping through a _ton_ of legal hoops -- I tried it with something as simple as with the jSyncManager (aka IBM ManplatoSync for Java), and *I* owned the copyright to _all_ of the sources on that. It took me two years of going through various sets of lawyers and legal teams at IBM to get the necessary permissions (and was released from IBM before it was ever finished). They go over everything with a fine-toothed comb to ensure that nothing goes against any of their licenses they have from other companies."

In other words, it looks like SCO doesn't have a leg to stand on. Unless SCO produces a smoking gun, the facts of this case are strongly against them. And since IBM legal is the most feared bunch of software lawyers on the planet, SCO may be cruisin' for a bruisin' (as the saying goes). I'd almost feel sorry for SCO.

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