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Journal: Channeling Your SCO Rage

Journal by mec

So, SCO's out to destroy things that I love and that I've spent years of work on, paid and unpaid. Microsoft and Sun are funding the SCO legal/PR attack. I'm outraged. And if you're reading this, you probably feel the same way.

What to do?

(1) Work on an open source project. If you're a programmer, you already know how you can help. If you can write doco, review the documentation and send documentation patches. If you can translate documentation into another language, ask around for projects that need help in the language that you write in. If you can help test CVS versions, do that. If you know how to write a good bug report, do that.

(2) Do background research. Any bit of fact might be useful to IBM's lawyers or LinuxTag's lawyers or Red Hat's lawyers. More importantly, these facts might be useful to the trade press, who work on a much smaller budget than IBM's legal budget!

Start by reading groklaw and get a feel for what's useful. Then hit the search engines and look for things. When you are presenting research, keep your opinion percentage low, and your facts and references high.

(3) Move to Utah and register to vote in time for jury selection for the trial in 2005. IBM is paying relocation expenses; talk to your IBM co-ordinator for details.

(4) If you need an outlet, use Slashdot for the outlet, and use other communication channels for real news and information that might actually help protect our work.

(5) If someone contacts you and claims to be, or be speaking for, a member of the Linux community who is committing illegal acts against SCO: respond to the second part of that message, not the first. Either hang up and keep your mouth shut, or turn the message over to the proper law enforcement agencies.

That's it, really. "Do something positive for an open source project" takes just a few words to way, but can take lots and lots of time to execute.

User Journal

Journal: Indies versus thieves

Journal by mec

First, I need a word for the category of informational products: software, music, movies, news, and stuff like that. I'm going to call them informationals.

There are four major distributors of informationals today: governments, companies, indies, and thieves.

You may not think of governments as producers and distributors of information, but actually, they generate a lot of informationals. Consider the weather bureau; the SEC' Edgar system; the publications of the NIH; all the business statistical data from the Department of Commerce.

Companies, obviously, produce and distribute information in exchange for money. As a libertarian I think this is a very good thing.

Indies are people and organizations who produce their own work like companies do, but distribute it with little or no corporate structure. Sometimes they do this for free (like the FSF) and sometimes they do it for money, like bands who produce and sell their own music without a big corporate label. Again, as a libertarian, I think that indies are really cool.

Thieves don't actually produce anything. They just distribute other people's informationals without permission. Thieves also don't like to be called thieves -- they prefer terms such as "copyright infringer".

I'm an indy. And I'm getting sick of the thieves.

The first problem is that the thieves make it harder for indies to gain more users for their informationals. I've talked to plenty of people about Open Office who tell me "why should I get Open Office for free when I can get Microsoft Office for free, too?" Free-as-in-stolen software makes it harder to sell free-as-in-freedom software -- or even distribute it as free-as-in-beer.

The second problem is worse. The second problem is that corporate enemies of the indies are lumping us in with the thieves. As SCO says: "I don't pay for my music -- why should I pay for my software?". SCO also says -- in both their legal filings and their PR statements -- that an indy operating system cannot possibly have enterprise features unless it contains stolen code.

Both of these memes have some traction in the IT press.

My experience is that developers and users of open-source software have far more respect for copyrights and licenses than developers and users of closed-source software. We take pains to follow the licenses of the informationals that we use and that we put into our distributions. I swear, if I put out a useful package that said "you must dye your hair blue and e-mail me a jpeg to use this package", my mailbox would get a lot of pictures of blue-haired people.

We've spent decades of hard work to build a complete, free operating system (as RMS says). As a Microsoft vice-president said: "it's as if people were making car axles in their back yard, and General Motors were buying them!" That's right. That's exactly what it's like.

And now a bunch of David LaMacchia types come along and stand close enough to us so that corporate types are confused. And the enemies of indy software in the corporate world are tarring us with the same brush. The software corporations of the world are going to use anti-thief DRM as anti-indy DRM, as well.

To me, a thief -- a pirate -- a copyright infringer -- is no better than a spammer. Spammers intrude on people's attention in a non-consensual way. Informational thieves use other people's informationals in a non-consensual way. They are both non-consensual.

So, thieves ... cut it out!
And, indies ... disengage from the thieves!

User Journal

Journal: My take on SCO 1

Journal by mec

Follow the money.

(A good place to do that is www.sec.gov. Click on the company filings, look for "SCO", and read the 10-Q quarterly report).

In the quarter ended April 2003, The SCO Group sold $13 million of products and services and had $8 million of "SCO Source" revenue. They lost $2 million on the products and services. They made $6 million on the "SCO Source" program. Total net profit, $4 million.

The "SCO Source" licensees are Microsoft and Sun. In addition, Sun received options to buy shares of SCOX at $1.83 per share, which means they make money directly on the SCOX bubble.

In my opinion, the "SCO Source" program is a cover story, and the real deal is: Microsoft and Sun give money to SCO, and SCO agrees to piss on Linux, as loudly as possible.

So the lawsuit doesn't matter much. It's just the foundation for the PR.

The point of the PR is not to drive sales to Unixware and Open Server. Nothing can save these products now. (Revenue for these products is declining, quarter by quarter, and McBride says that it will be less in the next quarter than it was this quarter).

More subtly, the point of the PR is not to sell these ridiculous $699 "IP licenses"!

That's why it doesn't matter that the license is ridiculous. It doesn't matter that SCO claims ownership of enterprise code and concepts, but is dunning makers of embedded devices. It doesn't matter that SCO is attacking Fortune 1500 companies, handheld companies, the US Government, and IBM at the same time.

What does matter is how many times this discussion takes place in company conference rooms:

PHB: Do you think we should pay SCO $699 per server?
Techie: No, SCO is full of it, blah blah.
PHB: It sounds risky. We had better use something with less risk, like Solaris or Windows.

That's the point. SCO's actions are designed to produce as many of those conversations as possible in as many conference rooms as possible. It doesn't matter whether SCO actually sells any licenses. They are not attacking to drive Unixware product sales or SCO IP License sales. They are attacking to cause as much damage as possible without regard to their own health.

SCO has found a way to monetize anti-Linux FUD. Microsoft and Sun pay them money: $8 million last quarter and $5 million this year. Those are public facts. It's my opinion that the major reason for these purchases is to fund these attacks.

(And it also doesn't matter what happens to SCO's business reputation. SCO functions as a subsidiary of The Canopy Group. The Canopy Group did this before with Caldera International (sound familiar?), purchase of intellectual property, a quixotic lawsuit based on the purchased IP, and a successfull $150 million settlement against Microsoft. That is a whole story by itself).

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying. -- Woody Allen

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