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Is SCO Bad Not Just for Linux, But Also for America?

Is SCO Bad Not Just for Linux, But Also for America?

(July 21, 2003) - Personally, I feel it's time to lay the cards on the table. As a journalist, you are supposed to remain emotionally detached from your subject, but there's no way I can do it anymore when I think about the SCO/Linux situation. I can't remember anything I've covered that has so enraged me as the legal thuggery that SCO is engaging in, and frankly, it's bad for the country.

Why?

1) If you haven't noticed, we're in an economic slowdown right now, and one way that companies are saving money is by deploying on Linux rather than more expensive alternatives. If this option is removed in the form of a $100+ per seat "blackmail" payment to SCO, companies will need to find savings elsewhere. Is that the sound of your job being outsourced to somewhere overseas I hear?

2) Linux represents the only fully user-audited operating system in general use. If the source code to Linux is pulled under the veil of a trade secret, it will lose the benefit of being quickly repairable in the face of new security attacks. We know that the government considers online attacks to be one route that terrorists are likely to take. So SCO's move directly impacts Homeland Security by degrading the securability of a widely used operating system.

3) If Linux were made commercial, that would remove its major selling point against Microsoft. This in turn will make Microsoft's argument that they aren't a monopoly because Linux competes against them into a farce. This will lead to renewed antitrust actions against Microsoft, which can't be good for the economy.

4) If SCO succeeds, it sends a message to every two-bit con artist that it's more profitable to sue that to innovate. What we don't need right now is the entire industry paralyzed by a flood of lawsuits.

5) It may drive several US employers out of business. TiVo has a Linux kernel at the heart of every box. Think they could afford retroactively to pay $100 per box to SCO?

6) Finally, the SCO lawsuit flies directly in the face of what America is all about. Linux (in spite of its Scandinavian origins) is a profoundly American idea. Forget the morons who equate the GPL with some kind of socialism. America is about pulling together to do something that individuals couldn't do alone. Think about an Amish barn raising. Think about the spirit that won World War II. It's the idea of putting the end result above personal glory. Does anything personify that more than the open source movement in general, and Linux in particular? Even assuming that SCO is correct, and that say 10% (and this is being more than generous) of the Linux kernel came originally from SCO-owned code, does this equate to $110 of value per Linux install? I think not. SCO is just using the threat of expensive lawsuits (inadvertently abetted by the US Patent and Trademark Office) to enrich themselves.

SO: A CALL TO ACTION

What you can do to help:

1) If you're in an executive position within a company using Linux, call your elected representatives and explain to them how you will be economically damaged if SCO is allowed to continue along their current course. You might also consider calling Senator Gordon Smith, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Competition, Foreign Commerce and Infrastructure at (202)224-3753, and explain to him how the decisions of the Patent Office may potentially harm the US economy.

2) If you work in a company that uses Linux, meet with your CEO or CTO and urge him or her to do #1

More Stories By James Turner

James Turner is president of Black Bear Software. James was formerly senior editor of Linux.SYS-CON.com and has also written for Wired, Christian Science Monitor, and other publications. He is currently working on his third book on open source development.

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