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The Voice of Groklaw - page 6

The Scope of Groklaw

  • December 31, 2003
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

LinuxPlanet: Who stands to gain most if SCO wins in court? Who gains most if SCO loses?

Jones: This is an alternate universe question. I can't see how SCO "wins" no matter what happens. In the real world, if there is any infringing code, it'll be removed in a blink and if there are damages they'll be paid and then that is the last Linux dime SCO will ever see. That's in a best case scenario for SCO.

And GNU/Linux is so obviously the future. That is an unchangeable fact. Proprietary software will just have to learn to play nicely with others.

SCO is shortsighted. Litigation isn't a long-term business strategy, even if you "win." It's a one-time payout. Then what? If you have no product people want, that's the final chapter, especially if people really don't like you and what you stand for. As for grabbing Linux, and making it proprietary, it's impossible. The GPL ensures that.

Even if they could steal the current kernel, it'd be dead within a few weeks. All the free coders would stop supporting it and patching it and innovating with it, and SCO would soon find they had two obsolete software offerings instead of one. What they don't understand is that without the community, the kernel is nothing. The process is everything. They are trying to force Linux into a box, like their dead software, but you can't do it to Linux without killing it. So they can't "win." They can't develop or maintain the software without the community. No one can. They have to change their mind set to be relevant in the future. No company, not even Microsoft, can afford to hire all the coders willing to contribute to GNU/Linux, even if it could persuade them to work for them.

The GPL will be the big winner when SCO loses, I believe. The SCO story is a morality play, and the whole world is watching. Proprietary software is getting a black eye, no doubt about it. So from that standpoint, I think people see far more clearly how precious the freedoms are that the GPL seeks to protect. We see this crass and cynical attempt to rob honest, generous-hearted volunteers of their creative work, and many people watching respect the cleverness of the GPL, which foresaw this rainy day and planned for the SCOs of the world. As Rob Preston said last week, nobody respects a bully. To the extent that Sun and Microsoft are perceived as being supporters of SCO, I think they lose, no matter who "wins" in the courtroom. People are learning that proprietary software companies on SCO's side of the table seem to be more out for themselves, not caring much about their customers. You see SCO even threatening to sue their own customers. It's bizarrely offensive to any normal person. So the bottom line to me is that SCO taught us that users have interests that do not necessarily align with proprietary software companies' interests as personified in a company like SCO.

LinuxPlanet: Even if SCO does "win the battle," will it have "lost the war" by alienating a lot of people?

Jones: That war is over already, I believe. There appear to be a handful of analysts and some investors and one or two cynical reporters left who still think SCO has a point, or have various reasons for saying so. But for the rest of the world, as far as I can tell, they look at SCO like they just picked up a rock. I have seen a downward shift in SCO's reputation since January when all this began, and it's now like watching the tide go out: slow, but inexorable.

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