SCO: What Difference Did It Make?

Rob Enderle

I stopped following SCO closely several years ago, but it clearly had an impact on the software market -- just not the one that I think it intended. With last week's ruling, which appears to make Novell, not SCO, the owner of UNIX (which by default makes it legally part of Linux, given the GPL), SCO effectively ceased being very important.

 

But what did it accomplish? A lot, but not at all what it intended. (By the way, I'm not particularly worried that Microsoft will now step in and pick up the fight; it simply is not on that path anymore.)

 

Vetting Open Source

 

Prior to SCO, open source and Linux were still something that, even in the software community, a minority of largely UNIX people spoke about. The related code was being used increasingly, but non-UNIX folks really didn't focus much on the drama surrounding it.

 

However, the threats of violence against SCO, the massive denial-of-service attacks -- even against those who confirmed the attacks -- got a lot of folks looking at open source who otherwise probably wouldn't.


 

Nastiness that too often had been common in UNIX communities (even BSD was known in the early days to cross over into threats of violence) suddenly was placed on the world stage. Major publications such as Forbes put resources into watching the drama. This was soap opera big time, and I still think we are fortunate that no one was hurt or killed.

 

But I think it burned much of the behavior out, and major Linux players moved to stop it. Sure, we have instances from time to time where nut jobs drop into a forum and threaten someone with things like rape, but these are the exception and the response is more consistently a call for a code of behavior rather than to respond in kind.

 

While the birthing was painful -- very painful for some of us -- the result has been a more moderate and mature open source community where discussion is increasingly measured and differing views allowed.

 

Litigation Lessons

 

SCO also serves as a good lesson in how not to litigate. Early on, BayStar Capital, one of SCO's largest initial investors, recommended SCO focus on the litigation and put such experts in control of the company. Had that happened, SCO likely would have contained its actions, fought fewer things in the media and maybe even won. It might have decided to exit the process earlier as well, saving everyone a lot of money and time.

 

But SCO made three critical mistakes. First, the litigators were not litigation experts, and that likely kept them from seeing critical pieces of information they needed to know (such as the internal memo indicating that much of the copied code was in the public domain). Second, it put the legal team on a flat fee, which typically shifts expensive (read "highly qualified") legal resources to more lucrative clients. And third, it let the entire thing become personal, which led to some really foolish behavior and substantially lowered its ability to win the cases -- and there were way too many cases.

 

Had its lawyers known all the facts about ownership of the code -- both the internal determination that it was in the public domain and the cloud of incomplete transfer from Novell -- at the beginning, the advice would have been not to proceed. The hill was too steep and the resources inadequate, and that got far worse once BayStar exited.

 

The Changing Face of Open Source

 

I didn't like open source early in the decade because I connected the related behavior to the early days of client/server. In the early days of both, no matter what the question was, open source or client/server was the answer. A lot of people lost their jobs in the '80s and early '90s as a result of that failed thinking, and I believe even more lost their jobs due to similar thinking surrounding open source.

 

Now I see most people viewing open source (we really don't talk about client/server that much anymore, because everything kind of is client/server) as a means to an end. They evaluate solutions to a problem and take open source if that's the best option. The focus, on both sides, increasingly is on interoperability. Torvalds appears to have called off the war on Microsoft and Microsoft is increasingly active with open source.

 

As we go into next decade, much like it was with client/server, I doubt we'll even talk about open source that much. It will be everywhere, but for most people, who can't code anyway, the result will simply be better products.

 

Wrapping Up

 

Users don't really care whether they can view source code or not. And it is far too easy for industry players to focus on plumbing issues, such as client/server and open source, and forget that the real goal is ecstatic customers.

 

Google and Apple don't involve themselves much in public plumbing discussions. Both seem laser-focused on creating great products, generally using open source. (I still think it likely the iPhone is in violation of the GPL given Linux, not BSD, is where the cell phone IP is.) And both have generated tons of revenue and massive amounts of stockholder value as a result.

 

In the end, I think the best lesson here is that, as long as you focus on your customers' current and future needs, you'll likely be successful. If you don't -- and SCO's litigation certainly wasn't focused on its customers -- then you probably won't like the outcome.

 

So I actually think SCO was beneficial overall. It forced open source to mature, and that allows us to discuss sensitive issues without fear of personal or physical attack and that, my friends, makes this a much better software world to live in.



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Aug 14, 2007 11:03 AM IJRamirez IJRamirez  says:
Mr. enderle, you always bring the nut jobs that make threatening remarks against other people but you conveniently forget the ones hired by the media and company against people who oppose them. How come you don't mention the threats against PJ by a so call analyst/journalist? Ms. Maureen O'Gara made some nasty unprofessional comments against PJ, publish information about her mother address, like inviting some kook to go and pay her a visit. Where is your assessment of that?And you always bring the issue about the DoS against SCO. All the evidence showed that the so called DoS was a self inflicted hardware/software configuration issue at SCO and had nothing to do with their site being attack. Their own staff verified the ssue with hardware/DNS configuration..And waht about you keynote "speech" at a SCO forum against OpenSource/Free software? In my book that speech was full of vulgarity and untruth. Time for you to retire. Reply
Aug 14, 2007 11:09 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
This is the kind of thing that makes me crazy, Groklaw miss reported my talk. If you read what I said, please point out the full of vulgarity part, and since it was mostly filled with personal experiences its kind of hard to say it was untrue. It was done specifically to showcase how Groklaw was intentionlly missreporting what was happening at the conference. I read the text so there would be a record of it. The text is still around if you look, compare it to what Groklaw said.The DNS stuff was real, BP actally asked that it be stopped and gee it stopped go figure. Show me where it says all of the DNS attacks they had were thier fault (recall there was third party confirmation and even they were hit by a DNS attack). Reply
Aug 14, 2007 11:13 AM jj jj  says:
rob enderle, has always been and will always be: *** a wanker *** Reply
Aug 14, 2007 11:16 AM IJRamirez IJRamirez  says:
Unix code in Linux? You must dreaming or living in lala land. The IBM case has shown a zillion times that THERE IS NO UNIX CODE IN LINUX. The code that IBM is accused of placing in Linux was written by IBM (an they also own the copyrights to it). SCO reduced their case to a contract issue, just in case you missed that. The issue of Methods and Concepts, wish was ridiculous to begin with when so many books have been published discussing them, are now off the table because Unix copyrights belong to Novell, therefore SCO has no standing to sue about something they don't own. Mr Enderle, you don't seem to understand the GPL. GPL code is written by programers who don't mind anyone use it as long as you follow their conditions. They own it,m therefore they put whatever conditions the feel like it. You don't like the conditions, then don't use it and write your own. let me give you an example: I have an agreement with my neighbour. I let him use my lawnmower anytime he wants with the condition he will return it with a FULL gas tank and CLEAN. For as long as he follows my conditions, I don't mind him using MY lawnmower. If he doesn't do that, or if he doesn't like my conditions, well he doesn't have my permission to use it. He can go and buy his own lawnmower. (If my agreement with him was written down or if I had evidence of it and he failed to comply, I could technically take him to small claims court and make him fill the gas tank and clean my machine). The same thing happens with GPL. The agreement is written down. You use and distribute their code, whatever you modify must be made available to all. What is so wrong about it? GET THE ANALOGY? Reply
Aug 14, 2007 11:19 AM xx xx  says:
Glad to see SCO following Rob's example and becoming irrelevant due to shear stupidity. Reply
Aug 14, 2007 11:20 AM IJRamirez IJRamirez  says:
Mr. Enderle, you the one stating that there was a DoS. It is upon you to provide the evidence of such attack. Just because a site become unavailable for a given time, doesn't make it a DoS.Funny, you decided not to comment of the personal attacks on PJ by Ms. O'Gara and by the nutjobs posting on yahoo boards. I am not trying to justify one or the other. i am just trying to prove the dregree of extreme partiality in reporting the issues. You are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to the facts. Reply
Aug 14, 2007 11:26 AM Ifmots Babi Ifmots Babi  says:
Rob, Please tell me if I understand what you are writing. The UNIX code supposedly in Linux was the UNIX code that SCO put in there and distributed under the GPL.But according to all the evidence tabled so far, there isn't any SYSV code in Linux, only in house code developed and owned by UNIX licensees.So is this UNIX you write about, the code that SCO developed from SYSV methods and concepts in house and put into Linux and distributed under the GPL, code that according to the Novell UNIX license conditions, still belongs to SCO as author?Novell would only get it if the rights were transferred surely? Reply
Aug 14, 2007 12:01 PM Pencil Nebula Pencil Nebula  says:
With last weeks ruling, which appears to make Novell, not SCOW, the owner of UNIX (which by default makes it legally part of Linux, given the GAL), SCOW effectively ceased being very important.The above implies a complete failure to understand copyright ownership with Unix.Unix was developed by a number of companies and Universities contributing ideas and files including but not limited to IBM, Silicon Graphics, HP, and U of CA with AT&T as lead. Ownership was clarified in the BSDi cases - federal in New Jersey - state in CA. Final results AT&T did not own BSD and licensed BSD from U of CA with the other principal developers secured permanent licenses.After reading the court decision two times front to back not one word was mentioned transferring ownership from copyright owners (IBM, Silicon Graphics, HP, and U of CA et) was mentioned which in law the judge does not even have that power.Once you have clarified the copyright ownership issues several of your conclusions then become outrageously wrong. In fact your conclusions are just as wrong and just as outrageous as PJ who equally messes up the ownership issue. Reply
Aug 14, 2007 12:50 PM Peter Yellman Peter Yellman  says:
Rape you say? It's Rob Enderle's ongoing sodomizing of the truth that is the truly disgusting spectacle.Peter Yellman Reply
Aug 14, 2007 12:57 PM Wang-Lo Wang-Lo  says:
"I stopped following SCO closely several years ago"I am surprised to hear this. I know you have written extensively about the case, but I did not know that you had begun to follow it.-Wang-Lo. Reply
Aug 15, 2007 2:04 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
No they were initially just standing by and doing nothing as the threats and DNS attacks went on. After I and a few others started objecting very loudly a number of Open Source leaders like Bruce, Richard, and Linus (who I believe was the first) spoke up and the attacks virtually stopped. I honestly thought someone was going to get seriously hurt. SCO was using armed body guards and supposedly had police snipers at some events. It doesnt take much when that kind of thing is happening to cross over into a major physical disaster. I had three choices:1. Walk away so it didnt happen to me.2. Mention the risk and then if it did happen ride the fame of being right on the bones of the victim.3. Or scream as loud as I could, possibly sacrificing my own credibility but also likely preventing the event. I took choice three and tried to stop the trend before someone was hurt. Whether you saw it that way or not is irrelevant because if someone had been hurt pointing to people like you as the reason I didnt do anything just wasnt an option. So yes I understand your resentment, I despise people who stand by and watch others attacked personally and terrorized because they dont support a populist view. What did you do to stop this behavior other than say something to the effect the victims deserved it or that it was none of your business? I should have thanked Bruce/Linus/Richard for speaking up and now regret that I didnt, but their actions very well may have saved at least one life. Reply
Aug 15, 2007 10:10 AM Kelly Manning Kelly Manning  says:
The decision turned on whether Novell or SCO owned Unix. Please explain how that might have turned out differently in the courts if SCO had said less in public and chosen a different litigation strategy. Either they own it or they don't.Aren't you are on record as saying that SCO had evidence that there was UNIX code in LINUX? What common code SCO showed publicly turned out to have been taken from even older versions of *ix and is not owned by Novell or SCO. What is now left in play in SCO's court battle against IBM boiled down to about 300 lines of non-copyrightable headers. Reply
Aug 15, 2007 10:27 AM W. Anderson W. Anderson  says:
As a user of Free/Open Source Software including GNU/Linux, in both business and personally, I resent your implication that I am therefore one of those that "supposedly" made threats against SCO, since it was never ascertained that such threats were from any know entity of the "open source" community. Companies with which I am now and previously affiliated, such as IBM, Oracle and Sybase are also members of that community, so it is ridiculous to start insinuating that responsible individuals that support that community were threatening violence, since any nut-case can claim to be representing FOSS community just as they can claim to be representing/supporting Windows groups.Indeed, there have been idiots supporting one fanatical ideal or other, including the continued monopolistic, infantile and illegal behavior of Microsoft.You should at least be "up front" and honest in your attacks on GNU/Linux and FOSS, rather than the sly and deceitful tact being used. Reply
Aug 16, 2007 1:13 AM Steve Steve  says:
"...supposedly had police snipers at some events."That absolutely did not happen. Please stop with this stuff Rob. Reply
Aug 16, 2007 1:25 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
http://mirsulzhan.wordpress.com/2007/08/07/kyrgyzstan-daily-round-up-sco-summit-feliks-kulovs-press-conference-nexi/ Reply
Aug 16, 2007 2:50 AM Cosmix Cosmix  says:
You've lost me on the significance of that link Rob. It seems to be referring to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Reply
Aug 16, 2007 2:58 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
Yes, sorry, at a meeting with a horrid network connection and thought I could find a quick link for background. Think I'm behind an insane proxy server. On the snipers, I used to take regular status meetings from SCO so I could get status directly from them. At one of the meetings they were so concerned about the death threats they indicated they had police snipers in case someone made a run at the stage with a weapon. We were regularly talking about body guards so, while now this seems extreme, back then it simply seemed prudent. I'm pretty sure someone wrote about this but so many of the old links have vanished along with some of the early OSS sites I'm not sure I can find another source. In any case, the comment does represent what I remember about that time. (and trust me this kind of thing sticks with you). Reply
Aug 16, 2007 10:32 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
Have been involved in a lot of litigation and it is almost always the case that, when their side wins, folks think the conclusion is obvious and when their side loses that the Jury and/or Judge is an idiot. This was far from obvious the ex-Novell CEO testified on SCOs side and it was clear they thought they owned the IP. It was only after a massive amount of testimony that the Judge could make his decision and the documentation of that decision, which was well done, is almost a book suggesting it was anything but easy. What folks forget is that litigation typically has more to do with the skills of the various parties (particularly in complex contract disputes) than it does with the events themselves. I think a more focused team would have been able to win this for SCO, but one thing is clear, win or lose, this litigation mess was not managed well. Yes, once it was clear that the code in question was not owned by SCO or UNIX I concluded the same. I was only in because it was clear there was copied code and a lot of work being done to cover that up. Had it been vetted in the first place I probably would have never gotten involved in the first place. Reply
Aug 17, 2007 11:43 AM raoul latif raoul latif  says:
>>>I was only in because it was clear there was copied code and a lot of work being done to cover that up. Had it been vetted in the first place I probably would have never gotten involved in the first place.>>>What are you referring to ? who copied what from where? who covered it up and how? What about the claims of millions of lines of literal copying?>>>>>I think a more focused team would have been able to win this for SCO>>>>BLAH? who was not focussed? SCO or BSF? HOw would extra focus change the written language of the contract?>>>the ex-Novell CEO testified on SCOs side and it was clear they thought they owned the IP.>>>>you mean the guy with load of CALDERA/SCO shares? Jee whiz what possible reason could he have to lie?How do you explain the testimony from the attorney who drafted the contract and the APA? Try a little better than SCO, you know "testimony from a friend who heard the attorney say to him over beers that he was not involved with novell-SCO transaction (that is the original SCO for you not caldera)Also, why on earth does caldera claim they paid $100 million, when infact they paid only $30 million to SCO?Buy yourself some self respect and address each point I have raised.raoul Reply
Aug 19, 2007 10:12 AM Julio C. Ortega Julio C. Ortega  says:
Looks like you need to shout again, now that you've lost your credibility. Reply
Aug 20, 2007 11:30 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
Sorry, I don't follow? Why? Reply
Aug 21, 2007 2:05 AM raoul latif raoul latif  says:
Are you ignoring me because you don't have answers?>>>I was only in because it was clear there was copied code and a lot of work being done to cover that up. Had it been vetted in the first place I probably would have never gotten involved in the first place.>>>What are you referring to ? who copied what from where? who covered it up and how? What about the claims of millions of lines of literal copying?>>>>>I think a more focused team would have been able to win this for SCO>>>>BLAH? who was not focussed? SCO or BSF? HOw would extra focus change the written language of the contract?>>>the ex-Novell CEO testified on SCOs side and it was clear they thought they owned the IP.>>>>you mean the guy with load of CALDERA/SCO shares? Jee whiz what possible reason could he have to lie?How do you explain the testimony from the attorney who drafted the contract and the APA? Try a little better than SCO, you know testimony from a friend who heard the attorney say to him over beers that he was not involved with novell-SCO transaction (that is the original SCO for you not caldera)Also, why on earth does caldera claim they paid $100 million, when infact they paid only $30 million to SCO?Buy yourself some self respect and address each point I have raised.raoul Reply
Sep 18, 2007 3:10 AM Sam Sam  says:
"Now the ownership of that code was always a question but the fact that Linux contained copied code, given that the Linux community maintained that they exhaustively looked at Linux source to locate and correct quality and security issues, should not have been. I concluded, and still believe, that the Linux community lied."http://www.enderlegroup.com/perspectives/pers_43.htmAs a part of that community I am still waiting for formal apologies. Reply
Sep 18, 2007 9:10 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
You won't get it from me. the statement remains true. What was also true, but I didn't know at the time, was SCO was concealing work they had done indicating that the copied code was in the public domain. Had the Linux community simply admitted (which it eventually did) the code existed and argued that it wasn't owned by SCO we could have all avoided one hell of a lot of aggrivation. So I still believe the community either lied about the existance of the code or that it was exhaustively vetted and then tried to cover that up with threats, bluster, and some really nasty inappropriate behavior. I stopped supporting SCO years ago but folks on your side have little to be proud of during those times either. Reply
Nov 21, 2008 5:45 AM ashok pai ashok pai  says:
rob, you need not apologize for your words, for you might be much like sco. however, where's that code of yours and who did admit for it ? thats the interesting thing to note. its sco all over again ..... Reply

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