SCO turns on its own

SCO has actually managed a couple of software releases over the past 12 months, but it's unlikely CEO Darl McBride gives much thought to his software business these days.

SCO has actually managed a couple of software releases over the past 12 months, but it’s unlikely CEO Darl McBride gives much thought to his software business these days. SCO’s gadfly campaign is transparently obvious: tease, provoke, annoy and harangue, as much as possible as often as possible.

It’s not enough for SCO to file its lawsuits and let good ol’ American justice take its course. Consider, for example, the suits against DaimlerChrysler and AutoZone announced earlier this month. SCO has long claimed that Linux users would need to buy a “licence”; in November the company said it would sue a Linux user within 90 days.

Speculation mounted that a high-profile company like Google might be the first target, only for SCO to let the deadline pass last month without any action.

Once speculation died down, the company got tongues wagging again early this month by leaking news that it would sue a company the next day. SCO couldn’t resist stringing that one out either — a day later, it announced it would postpone the announcement by 24 hours and would name two Linux users instead of one. Note that this is the announcement of lawsuits, not actually filing the cases.

Whew. That’s a lot of talk (and column inches) for not very much activity. Having failed to frighten IBM into capitulating, SCO is directly targeting Linux users and hoping that a few will blink. In the meantime its courtroom lawyers are stalling, demanding IBM hand over its Unix source code for SCO to examine. If SCO had compelling evidence of its own there wouldn’t be a need for this kind of legal palaver.

Certainly, SCO hasn’t shown enough evidence to sue Linux users for IP infringement — which perhaps explains why it chose to sue its own users instead. DaimlerChrysler is accused of failing to provide a certification of compliance with its SCO licence. Although SCO says AutoZone has “violated SCO's Unix copyrights by running versions of the Linux operating system that contain code, structure, sequence and/or organization from SCO's proprietary Unix System V code”, some observers believe SCO is trying to make a case that AutoZone directly copied software from SCO’s Unix onto Linux machines in order to run certain software, rather than infringing by the simple act of running Linux.

SCO is full of it. It spends months threatening to sue Linux users, and then sues its own customers instead. It announces it has sold licences to companies who then complain the licence was slipped into an unrelated contract, or was for significantly less than SCO claims. It says Linux must have stolen IP from SCO because recent kernels have such great enterprise support — even though SCO could never offer those features itself. It claims ownership without authorship. It attacks the competence and the morals of open source developers even while it boasts of their products on its website and continues to distribute GPL software even today.

After watching SCO turn on its customers and its erstwhile partners, it’s hard to imagine who would work with the company now. It’s no wonder the US Securities and Exchange Commission has received plenty of complaints, according to a Newsforge article.

Earlier this month SCO’s general manager for Australia and New Zealand, Kieran O’Shaughnessy, told Computerworld the company was discussing licensing issues with local firms. He won’t name the companies, but we suspect they’re sleeping easy. SCO’s real test will come in the courtroom.

Cooney is an Auckland reporter for Computerworld. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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