Friday, March 04, 2016

At least one of our long national nightmares is over

Sco is finally dead parrot dead

An interesting piece of news crossed my desk (well, actually appeared in my browser) this week: The (presumably) final resolution of the entire SCO saga. If you missed it, that’s not entirely surprising. The long, sordid saga was effectively put to bed a long time ago when SCO lost some key court decisions and went bankrupt. However, there remained a complicated set of claims and counterclaims that were theoretically just dormant and could have been reanimated given a sufficiently bizarre set of circumstances. 

However, on February 26:

Plaintiff/Counterclaim-Defendant, The SCO Group, Inc. (“SCO”), and Defendant/CounterclaimPlaintiff,International Business Machines Corporation (“IBM”), jointly move for certification ofthe entry of final judgment on the Court’s orders concerning all of SCO’s claims, including the(a) Order filed on Feb. 5, 2016, granting IBM’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (DocketNo. 782), (b) Order filed on Feb. 8, 2016, granting IBM’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment(Docket No. 783), (c) Partial Judgment Dismissing SCO Claims filed on July 10, 2013, and (d)Order filed on July 1, 2005, denying SCO’s Motion for Leave to File a Third AmendedComplaint (Docket No. 466). 

There’s more legalese but this would seem to be as much of a wrap as there ever is in the legal world.

I started covering this drama back in 2003 when SCO and their lawyers did their roadshow to industry analysts to show off the code that had been purportedly copied into Linux. (I was working at Illuminata at the time.) We wouldn’t sign their NDA but they showed us some code anyway and I ended up writing a research note “SCO’s Derived Case Against Linux.” I’m sure it got some of the details wrong but this was before it was particularly clear what was even being claimed. (Of course, that would remain a pattern throughout much of the case.)

I then ended up helping my colleague Jonathan Eunice write an expert witness report for IBM once those cases got rolling. I haven’t been able to discuss that fact or anything else about the case while the claims and counterclaims remained open. It was a busy number of months working on that report. In all, it was a fascinating experience although one I’m not sure I would want to make a practice of. It also gave me an appreciation for why lawsuits like these are so incredibly expensive. 

Unfortunately, the expert witness reports remain under court seal and that’s unlikely to change. That’s a bit frustrating both because I think we did some good work that ended up not really being used and because there’s a lot of historical information about the claims SCO made that will probably never see the light of day. But, in any case, I still can’t say too much about the details that I know.

The whole set of cases was such a weird trip down the rabbit hole. Probably the confusion over who owned the UNIX copyrights is Exhibit A. Wouldn’t you have thought the executives involved with the supposed sale would have remembered and that the contract would have been crystal clear on this basic point? One would but this is the SCO saga we’re talking about. 

It’s hard to argue that the SCO cases hurt open source and Linux. Perhaps they slowed down adoption in some circles. But the fact that Linux made it through what, at one time, looked to be a serious threat perhaps even strengthened it in the long run. 

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