Unix warriors lack evidence

Remember The SCO Group, the company that is in a battle against IBM? The company has certainly taken on a formidable foe.

But SCO professes to be a Unix warrior, a great defender of proprietary software. While SCO hasn't dominated headlines of late, the company is still armed and dangerous.

This is the company that drew its sword in 2003 by launching a multibillion dollar lawsuit against IBM over alleged misappropriation of Linux source code. The case has taken a few unexpected turns since then, but a trial date has been set for February 2007.

Only last month a judge tossed out almost 200 of The SCO Group's claims of intellectual property violation against IBM on the grounds that SCO didn't identify the alleged infringements in enough detail. This is a key problem in this case; there hasn't been enough detail or evidence to support a claim worth billions of dollars.

SCO responded by arguing it had identified "methods and concepts" that were misappropriated by IBM.

Forgive me for asking, but a claim worth this amount of money deserves more than vague concepts. Last year US District Court Judge Dale Kimball said SCO's inability to provide evidence to support its case is astonishing, adding there was a vast disparity between SCO's public accusations and its actual evidence.

Admittedly SCO is on the back foot when it comes to public sentiment. It has become the antithesis of the open source community.

The company's CEO Darl McBride hasn't helped, spruiking claims that Linux has a "volunteer fire department support model".

The truth is SCO has been busy putting out a few fires of its own since the drama began.

Soon after filing its suit the US Securities and Exchange Commission threatened to delist the company from the Nasdaq for not filing its annual report, then SCO had to take measures to cap its legal bill at $31 million, suffered a 99 percent drop in Unix licensing revenue in the second quarter of 2004, and had to close offices in Spain, Italy and Ireland.

This doesn't include the fake Nigerian e-mail parodies of the case that have circulated on the Internet. McBride himself has even received prank calls at 2am in the morning from a stranger professing to be Linux Torvalds.

It's all a bit of a court sideshow but SCO hasn't refrained from participating in such merry high jinks. At its annual Forum SCO handed out T-shirts that read: "Got Unix in your Linux?"

Then at its trade show, McBride said: "The GPL is about making software free; it's about destroying value" before explaining how IBM is out to "obliterate" SCO and its products. The sideshow won't end until SCO proves its case. Let's see the evidence.

Is SCO a Unix warrior? E-mail sandra_rossi@idg.com.au

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