June 20, 2003

More on SCO

First and foremost, the most informative source of info that I've found on SCO vs. IMB is the twiki.iwethey.org SCO vs. IBM page--Detailed background and appears to be updated very regularly.

Ian Lance Taylor has an excellent summary at Linux Journal of what he's allowed to say about his visit to SCO as an analyst.

His opinions about the code he was shown were particularly interesting:

Here is what I think I can say about the code I saw. The code is fairly trivial--the kind of stuff I wrote in school. The similar portions of the code were some 80 lines or so. Looking around the Net, I found close variants of the code, with the same comments and variable names, in sources other than Linux distributions. The code is not in a central part of the Linux kernel. The code does not appear to have been contributed to Linux by SCO or Caldera. The code exists in current versions of the Linux kernel.

The real question is, how easy will it be for litigators to make this point, or mutate this point into nothingness, before a judge and/or jury.

Also interesting are his feelings in response to the code:

I admit that SCO's example unsettled me by what it implies. Although in itself trivial, it does suggest that some Linux contributors may have been careless about copyright infringement. That is unfortunate.

And finally, his comments on the mutually assured destruction that he sees software patents to be are particularly fascinating:

It's worth noting that the people running SCO and their lawyers may not appreciate the power of software patents. In my experience, few people outside the profession understand the degree to which every program of any scope violates patents. The software industry today survives only through an unstated agreement not to stir things up too much. We must hope this lawsuit isn't the big stirring spoon.

In the same vein, Gary L. Reback's Summer '02 article on the patent system is sobering and depressing.

Is there a way to define a career for yourself as a patent litigator and/or prosecutor who only fights bad patents or prosecutes good ones? Unfortunately, much like criminal defense, I think the answer is no. The system is supposed to work, and it only works if the players do their best regardless of where they are placed in the field. But, perhaps my conscience will take enough of a beating that I'll actually try to find a career for myself where I fight the good fight. Given that in the last two years I've tried to volunteer with the EFF twice (as both a technical volunteer and legal volunteer for free) and I haven't even gotten an email reply, I imagine that positions for qualified lawyers fighting the good fight that pay enough money to support a family are few and far between.

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