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A Response to SCO's Open Letter

'We will not attempt to erect a compromise with you on a foundation of dishonesty.'

Mr. McBride,

In your "Open Letter to the Open Source Community" your offer to negotiate with us comes at the end of a farrago of falsehoods, half-truths, evasions, slanders, and misrepresentations. You must do better than this. We will not attempt to erect a compromise with you on a foundation of dishonesty.

Your statement that Eric Raymond was "contacted by the perpetrator" of the DDoS attack on SCO begins the falsehoods. Mr. Raymond made very clear when volunteering his information and calling for the attack to cease that he was contacted by a third-party associate of the perpetrator and does not have the perpetrator's identity to reveal. The DDoS attack ceased, and has not resumed. Mr. Raymond subsequently received emailed thanks for his action from Blake Stowell of SCO.

Your implication that the attacks are a continuing threat, and that the President of the Open Source Initiative is continuing to shield their perpetrator, is therefore not merely both false and slanderous, but contradictory with SCO's own previous behavior. In all three respects it is what we in the open-source community have come to expect from SCO. If you are serious about negotiating with anyone, rather than simply posturing for the media, such behavior must cease.

In fact, leaders of the open-source community have acted responsibly and swiftly to end the DDoS attacks -- just as we continue to act swiftly to address IP-contamination issues when they are aired in a clear and responsible manner. This history is open to public inspection in the linux-kernel archives and elsewhere, with numerous instances on record of Linus Torvalds and others refusing code in circumstances where there is reason to believe it might be compromised by third-party IP claims.

As software developers, intellectual property is our stock in trade. Whether we elect to trade our effort for money or rewards of a subtler and more enduring nature, we are instinctively respectful of concerns about IP, credit, and provenance. Our licenses (the GPL and others) work with copyright law, not against it. We reject your attempt to portray our community as a howling wilderness of IP thieves as a baseless and destructive smear.

 We in the open-source community are accountable. Our source code is public, exposed to scrutiny by anyone who wishes to contest its ownership. Can SCO or any other closed-source vendor say the same? Who knows what IP violations, what stripped copyrights, what stolen techniques lurk in the depths of closed-source code? Indeed, not only SCO's past representations that it was merging GPLed Linux technology into SCO Unix but Judge Debevoise's rulings in the last big lawsuit on Unix IP rights suggest strongly that SCO should clean up its own act before daring to accuse others of theft.

SCO taxes IBM and others with failing to provide warranties or indemnify users against third-party IP claims, conveniently neglecting to mention that the warranties and indemnities offered by SCO and others such as Microsoft are carefully worded so that the vendor's liability is limited to the software purchase price, They thus offer no actual shield against liability claims or damages. They are, in a word, shams designed to lull users into a false sense of security -- a form of sham which we believe you press on us solely as posturing, rather than out of any genuine concern for users. We in the open-source community, and our corporate allies, refuse to play that dishonest game.

You invite us to negotiate, but you have persistently refused to state a negotiable claim. You have made allegations of a million lines of copied code which are mathematically impossible given the known, publicly accessible history of Linux development. You have uttered vast conspiracy theories which fail to be vague only where they are slanderous and insulting. You have already been compelled to abandon major claims -- such as the ownership of SMP technology alleged in your original complaint against IBM -- on showings that they were false, and that you knew or should have known them to be false.

Accordingly, we of the open-source community do not concede that there is anything to negotiate. Linux is our work and our lawful property, the distillation of twelve years of hard work, idealism, creativity, tears, joy, and sweat by hundreds of thousands of cooperating hackers all over the world. It is not yours, has never been yours, and will never be yours.

If you wish to make a respectable case for contamination, show us the code. Disclose the overlaps. Specify file by file and line by line which code you believe to be infringing, and on what grounds. We will swiftly meet our responsibilities under law, either removing the allegedly infringing code or establishing that it entered Linux by routes which foreclose proprietary claims.

Yours truly,
Eric Raymond
Bruce Perens

 

More Stories By Bruce Perens

Bruce Perens, a leader in the free software and open source community, is a member of the International Advisory Board of Linux.SYS-CON.com. He is the creator of the Open Source Definition, the manifesto of the open source movement. Bruce is founder or cofounder of the Open Source Initiative, the Linux Standard Base, Software in the Public Interest, and No-Code International. He is the creator of Busybox, which has spawned its own development community and is part of most commercial devices using embedded Linux.

More Stories By Eric S. Raymond

Eric Raymond, usually known in the Open Source community simply by his initials, ESR, is President, Open Source Initiative.

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