SCO wants GPL declared unconstitutional.
October 31, 2003 9:48 AM   Subscribe

SCO is at it again... this time they've asked a federal judge to declare that Linux's general public license — a backbone of the free software movement — unconstitutional. Let's hope the judge has more sense than SCO.
posted by silusGROK (33 comments total)
This was on /. two days ago.
posted by nicwolff at 10:02 AM on October 31, 2003

SCO has plenty of sense. They're making tons of money pumping and dumping their stock while they play their little games in the courts. They're truly a company for the new millenium: They're going to walk away from this thing without a product to sell, but with plenty of money to show for it. Bastards.
posted by jpoulos at 10:02 AM on October 31, 2003

Whoops, should have linked that.
posted by nicwolff at 10:03 AM on October 31, 2003


Metafilter is a place for discussion of things people may find interesting. From the guidelines:

"A good post to MetaFilter is something that meets the following criteria: most people haven't seen it before, there is something interesting about the content on the page, and it might warrant discussion from others."

Not everyone reads slashdot. Nowhere in metafilter's guidelines does it say that if the link is not "bleeding edge brand new" it's not relevant. Some may read slashdot, but prefer a discussion with the 15-20 or so that reply to the average comment here, rather than the 400 replies that are mostly "XYZ SUCKS!" on slashdot.

/growing rather tired of all of the "this doesn't belong on MeFi", and "this is not a 0-day warez post!" crap on MeFi.
posted by twiggy at 10:11 AM on October 31, 2003

From now on we must all post only news items which haven't happened yet.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:14 AM on October 31, 2003

Twiggy, you're right but ease up. Personally I can't stand Slashdot for its horrible interface and really quite snotty comments (and yes, compared to Metafilter, they are far more pissy and that IS saying something). And nicwolff, there's certainly nothing wrong with posting what's interesting news in more than one place if it gets the word out to a wider audience.

So I don't read Slashdot anymore. I read MeFi and prefer it.

As for SCO continuing to try and shut down Linux, guess who's bankrolling the effort? That shadow coder in Redmond.

Luckily, I have it on excellent authority that the SCO lawsuit is basically without merit. So I'm not going to worry anytime soon.
posted by fenriq at 10:17 AM on October 31, 2003

SCO has plenty of sense. They're making tons of money pumping and dumping their stock while they play their little games in the courts. They're truly a company for the new millenium: They're going to walk away from this thing without a product to sell, but with plenty of money to show for it.

Whatever happened to Buffett's rule: never invest in something you don't understand. This works as long a the stock buyers are bamboozled. Once the illusion is dispelled, the whole thing tumbles like a house of cards.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:25 AM on October 31, 2003

I'm not sure I understand this entire matter. Some background please?
posted by moonbiter at 10:30 AM on October 31, 2003

KirkJobSluder - It's the "greater fool theory," which explains a lot of the investment behavior during the bubble.

moonbiter - Basically, this company, SCO, is claiming they own substantial portions of the code that makes up linux. They have a variety of ever-shifting opinions as to how this might of happenned or exactly what code might be involved. A good place to learn more about this is probably, which seems to be keeping a daily tab on what's going on.

I read slashdot, but yeah, the discussion can sometimes leave a little to be desired. Personally, I'd rather discuss this issue here... but it remains to be seen how this will all come down. I get the feeling this is going to be tied up in court for awhile.
posted by ph00dz at 10:49 AM on October 31, 2003

twiggy, anyone interested in it here would be interested in the discussion on /. as well, wouldn't they? So shouldn't someone in here link to it?

Although now that you mention it, "this doesn't belong on MeFi". It's a link to an AP dispatch about week-old news...
posted by nicwolff at 10:58 AM on October 31, 2003

Given that SCO distributes a Linux and the only thing that grants them that right is the GPL, having the GPL voided can and will result in a slew of lawsuits against SCO for violating the various authors' copyrights.

A friend of mine contributed a couple of USB drivers and is now considering sending cease & desist letters to SCO.

Methinks the SCO should be subject to equitable estoppel here. Or will be soon.
posted by Cerebus at 10:58 AM on October 31, 2003

moonbiter: what ph00dz said. Plus, here's my understanding of the situation. (Those who know more might want to correct me if I'm wrong):

SCO is basically telling the world that they own linux, that open source is illegal, and that everyone is going to have to license linux from them. (They won't tell anyone what parts of the code is theirs, because if they did, then linux would immediately be rewritten to exclude that code, and SCO would have nothing on which to base its claims.) Their claims have very little legal merit and it's just a matter of time--in the opinion of many--before their cases are thrown out. So the "greater fools" that ph00dz refers to are buying up stock in SCO. The SCO people are making money hand over fist by selling their ever-increasingly-valuable shares of stock.

As fenriq says, many believe that Microsoft is backing SCO, in an effort to devalue linux in the marketplace (I'm not sure that's been proven, however) since part of linux's appeal is that it's free.
posted by jpoulos at 11:05 AM on October 31, 2003

I, for one, much doubt that MS is backing SCO in any way other than a paltry $10mm license agreement some months ago. If I see proof I'll think otherwise but until I do, I think it unlikely.
posted by bz at 11:12 AM on October 31, 2003

MetaFilter: At Least We're Not Slashdot

Also, Groklaw has been an excellent source for commentary on the SCO lawsuit.
posted by bshort at 11:33 AM on October 31, 2003

If you look at it from the motive and opportunity angle, MS has both. Motive - Linux is taking away sales of Windows in some server applications. Opportunity - MS has cash up the wazoo and SCO has started a battle that MS would look bad in joining directly (they've had enough court battles for now).
posted by tommasz at 11:45 AM on October 31, 2003

This works as long a the stock buyers are bamboozled. Once the illusion is dispelled, the whole thing tumbles like a house of cards.

Valuation Ratios (from ... TTM=Trailing Twelve Months; MRQ=Most Recent Quarter):

Price/Earnings (TTM) -- 92.00
Price/Sales (TTM) -- 3.19
Price/Book (MRQ) -- 11.14
Price/Cash Flow (TTM) -- 24.97

Translation: A sucker bet, big time ... let the SCO Crash Watch begin.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:46 AM on October 31, 2003

groklaw had an excellent bit on copyright preemption. if nothing else, a savvy judge should see that sco is abusing the spirit of the law whilst claiming the letter, i.e. I really don't think that preemption is supposed to be used to do this sort of thing. (not to mention possible inapplicability since it deals at state level etc.)

every so often I get the weird feeling that sco's hidden agenda is to validate the gpl and promote linux...
posted by dorian at 11:57 AM on October 31, 2003

bshort: Hysterical.
posted by Yossarian at 12:09 PM on October 31, 2003

Given that:

a) it seems that SCO's case is pretty much completely without merit,
b) it will probably be clear in retrospect that it should have been obvious to SCO that their case was completely without merit,
c) they're making a pile of money in the meantime by pumping the value of their stock based on these deceptive claims,

won't this constitute shareholder fraud?
posted by jeffj at 12:12 PM on October 31, 2003

Moonbiter: what jpoulos and ph00dz and dorian said.

Also, it should be noted that the actual lawsuit that SCO brought against IBM claims that IBM allowed derivative works of Unix System V to make their way into the Linux codebase. SCO owns a certain amount of the Unix intellectual property (primarily source code, but not the trademark), and in a previous incarnation licensed the source code to IBM.

In the contract that they had with IBM they claim the rights to any derivative works that IBM created using that source code. As far as I understand they're using "derivative works" to mean any code that even resembles any code in Unix System V and any part of any code that references any of that code.

So be really pedantic, I'll put it another way. Let's say I have a function called Foo. If Foo's basic structure is such that it resembles anything in System V, then SCO is claiming it as a derivative work. Also, if I have some other function Bar that calls Foo, then they're claiming Bar as a derivative work as well.

Now since computer programs tend to consist entirely of functions calling lots of other functions you can see where this is going. IBM has donated a lot of their own code (that had nothing to do with System V) to Linux and so SCO is claiming that everything in the Linux kernal is theirs.

Needless to say, IBM (which has the largest legal team on the planet) is telling SCO to go fuck themselves. SCO was angling for a buyout by IBM, but they seemed to have pissed off someone way up at the top of the org chart, because IBM's goals now appear to include the total obliteration of SCO.

To this end, IBM, which has one of the largest patent portfolios of any company anywhere, is suing SCO for patent infringement. Which they'll almost certainly be able to win. So even if SCO manages to prove their claims of contract violations, they'll be crushed by the sheer weight of IBM's patents.

SCO is also trying to get the GPL (GNU Public License) declared "unconstitutional" based on some truly shaky law, and on which most commentators are trying their hardest not to just outright mock. (This post is an excellent source of funny quotes.) They're hoping that if they get it declared unconstitutional, they'll also get to claim that anyone who contributed any code to the kernel was just kidding about their use of the GPL, and that they actually meant to put it in the public domain. This is to keep from having to follow the GPL with respect to their own codebase and so they can steal everyone else's code and then sell something that was always meant to be free.
posted by bshort at 12:13 PM on October 31, 2003

The amazing thing about this SCO thing is how long they've been able to keep it up. I mean, it's been at least four months since it became clear that they're doomed to lose badly, and the stock price has just kept going up through all that time, as their actual position only gets weaker. I guess they must have some strong collaboration from some big-money investors who're in on the scam (or think they are...)

The legal claims just keep getting more absurd. When this crash happens, it's gonna be fast. A very entertaining story, all round.
posted by sfenders at 12:18 PM on October 31, 2003

Various flavors of licenses, GPL included.
posted by trondant at 12:39 PM on October 31, 2003

The truly insane thing is that, should SCO's claims about the GPL be found to be with merit, they would call into question the entire patent system. The GPL was created completely within the framework of the existing patent system. If SCO were to accomplish that, it would pretty much give IBM the ammo to say "well, if that license is suspect, so is huge chunks of patent law, and therefore SCO's licenses should be considered invalid. Oh, and by the way, patents are now invalidated. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."

So, yeah, this isn't going to happen. I strongly suspect that besides the very visible pump-and-dump activities of the CEO's there's a Microsoft hand up this puppet's butt. There's an investment group that includes Micheal Dell, Bill Gates, and Larry Ellison that pumped a bunch of cash into SCO just before all hell broke loose over this. I think Msoft keeps delaying longhorn so that, should SCO succeed, they won't need to keep extending their kernel, and instead grab unix and stick a blue and green desktop on top of it.

Quick! Fetch my tinfoil hat!
posted by lumpenprole at 12:58 PM on October 31, 2003

Don't forge that SCO is one of the few licensees of MS code allowed from the MS antitrust suite remedy. I think this is a wash each others back deal.
posted by infowar at 1:13 PM on October 31, 2003

err suit...
posted by infowar at 1:14 PM on October 31, 2003

They can already stick a Windows desktop on Linux if they want to. The license doesn't prevent that any more than it prevents TiVo from sticking a TiVo interface on Linux.
posted by kindall at 1:18 PM on October 31, 2003

The GPL has nothing to do with patents; it is built within the framework of the existing copyright system.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:23 PM on October 31, 2003

I'm thinking it's time to short SCO stock and make up for the dotcom crash losses. MefiInvestmentClub?
posted by billsaysthis at 4:17 PM on October 31, 2003

If you're going short on SCO now, you'd better be prepared to stay there a while or take a loss. Trial isn't scheduled 'till 2005...
posted by sfenders at 5:19 PM on October 31, 2003

Theory: SCO's stock is actually rising right now in part because of the people shorting it.
posted by namespan at 9:22 PM on October 31, 2003

There's an investment group that includes Micheal Dell, Bill Gates, and Larry Ellison that pumped a bunch of cash into SCO just before all hell broke loose over this.

Curious. Gates' motivations I can see--after all, Linux is a *huge* worry to Microsoft, at least in the server space, and MS isn't above playing dirty pool--but I can't really see why Dell should care one way or the other, at least not in terms of his company's core business, and Ellison you would think would actually be in favour of cheaper, open-source Unix clones, as that leaves more money for companies to spend on Oracle rather that $SomeCommercialUnix licences. Or does he actually see MySQL as a big enough threat that trying to nuke the GPL is worth it to eliminate his company's open source competitor(s)? The whole thing seems a little farfetched, and more easily explained as a stock scam the above guys--possibly including Gates--are trying to make a quick buck on.
posted by arto at 12:23 AM on November 1, 2003

Also there is a distinct lack of shares to short.
posted by PenDevil at 1:55 AM on November 1, 2003

alterslash is pretty good for reading /. - i haven't read the site directly in years.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:31 AM on November 1, 2003

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