August 6, 2003

NewsForge reader listens in on SCO conference call

- by Matt Moen -

Aug 5, 2003 - It was a phone conference. People called in and pressed 9 and * or
something if they had a question. The WSJ reporter was the first. He asked two questions. Then the woman
running the conference call said, only one question per person. Followups were not allowed except for the WSJ guy. Frankly, it seemed that SCO couldn't handle followups with their weak claims.

During his discussion, the CEO (Darl McBride) mentioned something about the clause in
the GPL where software cannot be redistributed if it contains other
non-GPL code which is licensed under something incompatible with the GPL (such as SCO's license).

The CEO mentioned a bit about their licensing "bargain" of something
like $699.

Also, he claimed to have talked with more than "100" linux developers
who agreed with SCO's claims after they had showed them the offending
code. When asked for names of these developers, the CEO said that some
of them didn't want their names released, and then couldn't think of any
others. He mentioned someone in particular who was "important," but
neither he nor his cohort could recall this gentleman's name.

The CEO claimed Red hat was playing a "shell game" with regard to this
new suit, and that RH has no chance.

At one point the CEO made the chilling statement that he wanted
end-users to "come clean" with regard to their licenses. There were
allusions to the similar "IP issues" going on with music sharing.

Not to sound like some sort of Socialist extremist (which I'm certainly
not), this is definitely a battle between individual citizens and
Corporate entities. Do corporations have the right to endless power and money
due to their large legal teams, or can individuals say, "I don't like
corporate software. Let me contribute to non-corporate software and
make it the way I want it to work!"?

Perhaps the way to deal with this is to break Linux up into smaller
components that the end user plunks together. This way SCO and others like them could only
attack smaller entities (like the IP-stack portion, or the memory
management portion, or a certain set of drivers). Frankly, it would
make suits like SCO's much more difficult, and it would
de-productize Linux. Of course, this is end-geek-user thinking, and
doesn't help corporations who need to stick it all together.

When (and if) this does go to trial, it should be fun to see things like
Andrew Tannenbaum's books (who writes about SMP, among other things, and
authored MINIX) enter the evidence as demonstrations that SCO's "unique
code" isn't all that special.

Matt Moen is a currently unemployed sysadmin and programmer with heavy Unix and Linux experience. If you have an appropriate opening, please contact him. He's very smart (and a much better sysadmin than writer), and was kind enough to check out this call and give us an excellent 'reader's eye view' of the SCO madness. -- RM

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