SCO CEO fires off letter to open-source community

SCO CEO fires off letter to open-source community

In an open letter to the open-source community, chief executive officer (CEO) of The SCO Group, Darl McBride, has offered to find ways that his company and the community can work together so each can remain viable in the software industry. And he has launched his first public broadside against Silicon Graphics, which he said contributed some of SCO's protected Unix code into Linux.

In a two-and-a-half-page letter posted on SCO's Web site and on various open-source and Linux Web sites, McBride vowed that he "will continue to protect SCO's intellectual property and contractual rights" but added that he is "open to ideas of working with the open source community to monetize software technology and its underlying intellectual property for all contributors, not just SCO."

McBride, who couldn't be reached Tuesday morning for comment, wrote that "a sustainable business model for software development can be built only on an intellectual property foundation." That, he said, is the basis for SCO's ongoing US$3 billion lawsuit against IBM.

He also wrote angrily about a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on SCO's Web site two weeks ago, which apparently were the second and third such attacks against the site since the IBM lawsuit was filed. "There is no question about the affiliation of the attacker -- open source leader Eric Raymond was quoted as saying that he was contacted by the perpetrator and that 'he's one of us,'" McBride wrote. "To Mr. Raymond's partial credit, he asked the attacker to stop. However, he has yet to disclose the identity of the perpetrator so that justice can be done."

In an interview, Raymond Tuesday denied that he knows the identity of the DDoS attacker. "SCO itself knows that I don't have that person's identity," he said. Instead, SCO is "trying to convey the impression that the DDoS attacks are still going on, when in fact they've stopped."

McBride called on the open-source movement to help police the incidents. "If they fail to do so, it casts a shadow over the entire open source movement and raises questions about whether open source is ready to take a central role in business computing," he wrote. "We cannot have a situation in which companies fear they may be next to suffer computer attacks if they take a business or legal position that angers the open source community."

McBride also noted a recent "admission" by open-source leader Bruce Perens that Unix System V code, which SCO says it owns, is improperly included in Linux.

The System V code was allegedly put into Linux by a developer "on the payroll of Silicon Graphics ... (who) stripped copyright attributions from copyrighted System V code that was licensed to Silicon Graphics under strict conditions of use, and then contributed that source code into Linux as though it was clean code owned and controlled by SGI," McBride wrote. "This is a clear violation of SGI's contract and copyright obligations to SCO. We are currently working to try and resolve these issues with SGI.

"This improper contribution of Unix code by SGI into Linux is one small example that reveals fundamental structural flaws in the Linux development process," McBride continued. "In fact, this issue goes to the very heart of whether Open Source can be trusted as a development model for enterprise computing software. The intellectual property roots of Linux are obviously flawed at a systemic level under the current model. To date, we claim that more than one million lines of UNIX System V protected code have been contributed to Linux through this model. The flaws inherent in the Linux process must be openly addressed and fixed."

McBride said that "at a minimum," IP sources should be checked and confirmed. "If the Open Source community wants to develop products for enterprise corporations, it must respect and follow the rule of law," he said in the letter. "These rules include contracts, copyrights and other intellectual property laws."

He went on to chastise those angered by SCO's recent legal actions. "It is easier for some in the open source community to fire off a 'rant' than to sit across a negotiation table. But if the open source community is to become a software developer for global corporations, respect for intellectual property is ... mandatory. Working together, there are ways we can make sure this happens."

Open-source advocate Raymond, however, said he doesn't buy McBride's reasoning.

"I don't see an offer to work with us there," Raymond said. "What I see is a kind of trap. I see an attempt to get us to concede to SCO's position by sitting and negotiating with them on their terms. We're not going to play that game. SCO has failed to make a case."

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