IBM has been quietly stage-managing the open source community's response to The SCO Group's US$3 billion lawsuit over Big Blue's contributions to the Linux source code, SCO's Chief Executive Officer Darl McBride said in an interview at his company's SCO Forum user conference in Las Vegas this week.
"We have absolute direct knowledge of this. If you go behind the scenes, the attacks that we get that don't have IBM's name on them, underneath the covers, are sponsored by IBM," McBride said.
Responding to criticism that his company is trying its case against IBM in the press, McBride said that SCO has simply been responding to attacks and standing up for its rights when attacked.
However, SCO's public relations (PR) department has had a busy few months. McBride proudly dumped two phone-book-sized binders of press clippings on the stage during his SCO Forum keynote on Monday as proof that his company had become more relevant in the high technology industry. SCO has issued 46 press releases since filing suit against IBM on March 7. Last year it issued only 29 press releases between March and August.
SCO sued IBM in March, claiming that the Armonk, New York, company had inappropriately contributed code to the Linux operating system in violation of a Unix licensing contract that IBM had signed with AT&T Corp. but that had later been transferred to SCO. In May, Novell Inc. claimed that it, and not IBM, had the rights to the Unix source code -- a claim it later retracted.
Three months later, in August, Linux distributor Red Hat Inc. sued SCO in connection with its Linux claims, and two days later IBM filed a counterclaim against SCO, accusing the Lindon, Utah, company of ten charges, including breach of contract, interference with prospective economic relations and violation of a number of IBM's software patents.
Since the IBM suit was launched, SCO has been blasted by Linux enthusiasts and developers. The level of SCO criticism increased this week as Linux enthusiasts analyzed two snippets of code that SCO presented as proof of intellectual property violations in Linux.
McBride declined to reveal the sources of his allegations, but he claimed that IBM was involved in Novell's and Red Hat's responses to SCO's lawsuit. "Even though IBM looks like they're not really involved in it, they're very involved," he said. "From a PR standpoint, they're able to extract themselves from (the dispute), and so they throw Red Hat at us, they throw Novell at us, they have (Open Source Initiative President) Eric Raymond on their payroll. They have all these guys that they fund and then they just step back and watch the fracas go on."
IBM spokeswoman Trink Guarino declined to comment on McBride's allegations other than to say, "the open community is completely capable of reacting on its own to SCO's allegations."
Red Hat spokeswoman Leigh Day was even more taciturn, saying only, "The suit was filed by Red Hat alone."
However, Raymond, who in March co-authored a position paper criticizing SCO's claims, was more forthcoming. "IBM had absolutely nothing to do with the publication of that position paper," he said. "IBM's legal people have not been coordinating attacks on SCO. . . Those attacks have been happening because our community is outraged. IBM didn't have to talk to us or suborn us or bribe us or anything else. They happened because we were outraged by SCO's attempt to hijack our work."
After the position paper was published, Raymond was quizzed by IBM lawyers on what he'd written. "I'm proud to say that I think it helped them," he said. He has never acted as an agent or spokesman for IBM, he maintained.
McBride also pointed to the involvement in the dispute of the Free Software Foundation, whose legal counsel, Eben Moglen, has issued a position paper critical of SCO, and Linus Torvalds, who has been increasingly vocal in his criticism of the Unix company. "You've got all of these guys and it looks like the whole world is coming against SCO. It's really IBM that has wired in all of these relationships," he said. "That's why it looks like they're sitting back and not doing anything. It's us fighting a whole bunch of people that they put on the stage."
Novell declined to comment on this story.