[linux-elitists] Silly SCO Scenarios

Jonathan Corbet corbet-elite@lwn.net
Fri Aug 8 14:01:56 PDT 2003

I *hate* this feeling that, because SCO's actions seem to lack sense, I'm
missing something important.  So, I'd like to share a scenario has been
going through my head when I would have been better off sleeping.  But
first, some formalities are in order:

	The following scenario is made available under the Open Paranoid
	Ravings License v3.2.7 (no other version, you never know what they
	might slip in there) in the hope that it will be amusing and, with
	luck, not complete balloon juice.  It may be redistributed, and
	combined with other ravings without regard to ideology, good taste,
	or logical consistency.  All warranties with regard to any relation
	to reality, public humiliation, or mind warpage are explicitly
	disclaimed.  No indemnities are offered; you have no alternative
	but to think for yourself.

OK.  I believe most readers of this list would have little difficulty with
the following Findings Of Fact:

 - SCO would be delighted if it could convince a court to state that, not
   only has "its" code been copied into Linux, but it has been mixed in at
   such a fundamental level ("SMP") that there is no way to remove it.
   Besides, they claim an inability to even tell us where the problem code
   might be.

 - SCO has embarked upon a licensing scheme that, if the company ever
   succeeded in making it stick, would shut down all redistribution of
   Linux and kill the whole thing dead.

 - SCO's attacks on the GPL are on the increase.  It's response to IBM said
   that IBM needed to "move away from the GPL."  Our Buddy Darl is full of
   blather on how the SCO case will lead "open source" developers to a
   Better Way.  Other communications from the company, public and private,
   have suggested that SCO thinks the GPL may not be enforceable.

Conclusions that have been drawn from the above facts include (1) SCO wants
to kill Linux so that it can get back to selling proprietary stuff, (2) the
whole thing is really a stock pumping scam, or (3) SCO is simply trying to
be sufficiently obnoxious that somebody eventually buys them off in one way
or another to shut them up.

What if all those explanations are wrong?  With imagination and
sufficiently powerful drugs, it's not too hard to envision that "Evil
Corporate Plan For Obtaining Vast Riches With Sleazy Legal Techniques"
(v4.7 or so) could have a sequence of steps reading, approximately:

 - Get a court to agree that SCO owns parts - large parts - of Linux.
   Establish that only SCO has the right to distribute this code.

 - Claim that the GPL is unenforceable and that SCO is entitled to
   distribute the Linux kernel as a whole - under its terms.  Find a court
   somewhere that will confirm this.

 - The kernel is now 0wn3d.  Apply taxes accordingly.

 - Retire to desert island.

 - OK, Utah *is* a desert island of sorts; retire to Logan or thereabouts. 

I can see how, to a certain type of mind, a plan like the above would look
like a good thing.  If you've risen to a high position in the Evil
Corporate Planning Department, how could you resist a scheme that held out
a hope of applying a tax to every Linux installation?  Darl himself has
said it: it adds up to multiple Sagans of dollars.

Now, we all know that, even if all went well in the courts, there are
limits on how well this scheme could work.  SCO could, in the worst case
scenario, gain some sort of control over a dead shell of code, but its soul
would be gone.  Linux would not remain valuable for long.  But the authors
of such an Evil Corporate Plan (ECP) would be unlikely to understand this.

Humor me for a moment - I'm just a frustrated science fiction author, after
all - and assume that the ECP exists in this form.  In such a situation,
the GPL becomes one of the main obstacles to bringing the ECP to fruition;
imagine how much easier it could be if Linux carried a BSD license.  As
long as the GPL holds, Linux cannot be hijacked in this way; it can only be

Bottom line (serious, now): attacks by SCO (and others) on the GPL should
be taken seriously.  It has become one of our most important lines of
defense.  Watch the GPL rhetoric carefully; I predict it will get worse.

OK, I'll go back to my cell now.


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