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SCO Group: Die Hard 17


'Net Insider By Scott Bradner, Network World
March 31, 2010 01:50 PM ET

Almost two years ago I wrote in this column that the SCO Group's future was all used up. Sorry to say, just like a cliche movie character, it has turned out that the SCO Group does not die easily. But the end may finally be getting closer with this week's jury ruling in favor of SCO Group adversary Novell.  


It is now almost seven years since the SCO Group gave up on the idea of actually producing good products and hitched its future to suing others. In my first column on the topic I predicted that someone would pay off the SCO Group, but it turned out that no one was willing to hold his nose long enough to do so. Well, almost no one: it may be that Microsoft provided SCO with some funding. But maybe this was like two skunks mating -- maybe Microsoft could not smell the stink since it has frequently threatened the same kind of attacks on Linux using secret information that the SCO Group was known for.


For those of you who achieved consciousness since this process started, the SCO Group filed suit against IBM, claiming that IBM stole mountains of Unix code and put it in Linux and wanting billions of dollars in compensation.  It also threatened various companies that were using Linux. The SCO Group claimed that it just wanted to protect its intellectual property rights but, naturally, refused to tell anyone exactly what in Linux was stolen code. In other words, the SCO Group was in it for the money -- everything else was window dressing. If open source software, including Linux, had to die to enrich the SCO Group, so much the better.


A not so minor problem developed for the SCO Group when Novell said that it had never transferred the Unix copyrights to the SCO Group. If that were the case, the SCO Group would have no rights to claim in its suit against IBM. In response, the SCO Group started throwing lawyers at Novell -- and sued Novell for Novell's claim.


In mid-2008 I wrote the column referred to first paragraph because a judge had ruled that Novell was right and that the SCO Group had no rights with which to threaten the world. It looked like we had entered the SCO Group's end game, but it threw some more lawyers and appealed.


Another judge ruled that a jury should decide if Novell was right, which led to a three-week jury trial in Salt Lake City. That jury ruled this week that Novell was right in saying that the Unix copyrights had not been transferred.


This should be the end. If the SCO Group has no rights it cannot continue the suit against IBM. In addition, the SCO Group declared bankruptcy and is just about out of money. But, legally, a lawsuit is not over until any appeals are decided, and where there is a lawsuit, there are lawyers who may be willing to take a chance on an appeal -- particularly if any of them still thinks there could be billions of IBM dollars and other billions of Linux users' dollars there for the picking.


I do hope that this is my next-to-last column on the SCO Group. The last column will be to celebrate the lack of yet another sequel in this string of movies, each of which has started like a horror flick and ended on an upbeat note.


Disclaimer: I expect that Harvard, for some students, starts like a horror flick and ends, on commencement day, on a upbeat note but I know of no university opinion on the past ability of the SCO Group to rise, zombie like, from repeated near-death experiences. So the above non-movie review is mine alone.


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