Why the SCO case matters

January 25, 2004

There's a good article about the SCO story so far. Why does this story matter, and why do people on Slashdot and Groklaw keep harping on it?

The free software movement, started by Richard Stallman and continued by Linus Torvalds and others, is an example of a selfless act. People who contribute to the free software base believe that the world is a better place with a large base of high-quality software that could be openly accessed by anyone. When Stallman and the FSF lawyers wrote the GPL, they crafted it very carefully so that people who made such a selfless donation of their programming time could insure that that gift remained free, that other people could not turn around and charge money for their labors without releasing the resulting code back into the free software base. It is the high quality GPL that has meant that despite the fact the RedHat and SuSe make money off of Linux, a large number of people can download their excellent packages for free.

Now SCO threatens all of that. They are charging users something like $200 for guarantee against future lawsuits, they've sued IBM and Novell and have threatened users of this free software worldwide. What little evidence they have shown has been quickly unravelled. They are either threatening to either take Linux over or destroy it, despite the fact that they themselves have contributed nothing to the cause. If ever there were an example of bad versus good in the modern business world, surely this is that example. They have attacked not only Linux, but the GPL itself, and thus programmers like me who contribute software to the free software base. It is a crass, selfish, mean-spirited act, and SCO has not caught enough public scorn for these actions.

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