The letters sent out by The SCO Group a few weeks ago didn't reach Linux users as far-flung as the Middle East. That's a shame -- I would like to have got hold of one as a memento of the most entertaining legal pantomimes for years.
I am, of course, referring to the letters warning corporate Linux users that they may be risking intellectual property infringement if they continue to use the open-source operating system, and fracas between SCO and IBM over the latter's alleged misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair competition and breach of contract.
In the opening scene of this pantomime, Abanazar (played by SCO), looking for a get-rich-quick scheme, files a $1 billion suit against the Emperor (IBM). The Emperor, however, ignores his threats, so Abanazar raises his demand to $3 billion and says the Emperor can no longer employ his nephew Wishee Washee (Unix/AIX) in the laundry.
In true pantomime style, the Emperor says 'oh, yes I can,' and claims that his employment of Wishee Washee is "irrevocable, perpetual, and cannot be terminated".
'Oh, no you can't,' says Abanazer, claiming that the laundry's customers (AIX users) "don't have the right to use Wishee Washee (the software), and the Emperor (IBM) doesn't have the right to employ him (distribute or sell the software)."
Abanazer was not expecting the response he received. The Emperor continues to employ Wishee Washee, and finds more and more jobs for his brother, Aladdin (Linux). The laundry customers (AIX users) seem unperturbed, and Aladdin's friends (the Linux community) laugh at Abanazer's demands. Those laughs then turn into guffaws when the Widow Twanky (Novell) announced that Abanazer isn't, in fact, Wishee Washee's uncle (doesn't own the copyrights and patents to Unix System V).
Abanazer refuses to be put off, and produces the Genie of the Ring (an amendment to the asset purchase agreement through which SCO acquired Unix from Novell in 1995). The Widow Twanky reluctantly agrees that Abanazer may be distantly related to Wishee Washee, but claims she is still his legal guardian (holds the Unix patents).
This leaves Abanazer seething, and he considers adding the Widow Twanky to his list of targets. Abanazer is now seeking the Genie of the Lamp, as he realises he'll need some magic to fight all these battles.
Meanwhile, a rival laundry (Sun Microsystems), is offering free two-day assessments to customers looking to wash their clothes elsewhere (migrate from AIX to Solaris).
"Attention AIX Users: Sun is Here to Help. ... Unfortunately, our friends in Blue have a problem with licensing contracts that could make things very expensive for anyone running AIX, said the ads.
This is only the end of the first act; what happens to our hero Aladdin remains to be seen, but with Abanazer firing legal shots left, right and centre, who knows who the next target will be.
Maybe you should… 'look behind you!'