March 11, 2004

The Myths of Open Source

SCO group's May 2003 letter to 1,500 large-company Linux users grabbed headlines. The letter warned the users that SCO might seek legal action against
them as part of its ongoing fight with IBM over allegedly stolen Unix code that may or may not be in Linux. And SCO's more recent assertion that the
General Public License (GPL), under which much open source is published, may violate the U.S. Constitution has caused a few eyeballs to roll and
roiled some tempers. But beyond that, the brouhaha's impact may be limited. A number of open-source vendors have already moved to indemnify customers.

Lawyers, too, seem unconcerned about the risks that the SCO assaults pose to the typical CIO--especially since IBM, a major open-source vendor, has
signaled its intention to rebut the charge vigorously. "If IBM's involved, we've got some assurance that these issues are going to get resolved," says
Karen Copenhaver, a partner in the patent and intellectual property practice of law firm Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault.
Others are also skeptical. "It's essentially a dispute between IBM and SCO, and it won't affect the majority of Linux users," says Jeff Norman, a
partner in the intellectual property practice of law firm Kirkland & Ellis. "Even if SCO wins, I find it highly unlikely that SCO has a claim on Linux

As for the Constitutional claim? "[SCO CEO Darl McBride's] argument that the GPL violates the U.S. Constitution is just plain silly and has generally
been dismissed as such," says Copenhaver. "It is certainly one of the more bizarre allegations that he has made."



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