Darl Goes to Harvard - My First Quick Impressions

Monday, February 02 2004 @ 08:48 PM EST

Contributed by: PJ

I watched the webcast and while I lost the stream once or twice, I heard the bulk of it. No doubt others will fill in the blanks, and I took some pictures off the screen which will at least give you a flavor when I get them up. Soon. UPDATE: Here is the webcast Harvard has made available.

The big news is that they say they will start to sue copyright end users by February 18. The other news is that he asked the audience if they had gotten infected by MyDoom, and he pointed to one guy who beautifully answered, "No, I use Linux, so I wasn't affected," and the room laughed. Darl wasn't happy about that and it was clear he didn't like the questions about the ABI files. He said that Linus claimed only two, and there were the rest they can sue over, though they still plan to contest Linus' claims in court.

Someone mentioned an article that had lessened his credibility on the other ABI files, that it had said it looked like they had distributed them under the GPL. And it was like he turned dark and stormy and paced and tried not to show his anger. But it showed. Then he said that the BSDi settlement was about those same header files, and they know what is in that sealed settlement and we don't, but there were three kinds of files addressed in that settlement: files that had to be removed, files that had to have copyright notices put on them, and files that were ok. They claim that the files they will be suing over lack the copyright notices, plus some files that were supposed to be removed, IIRC. And the DMCA says it's a violation to strip off copyright information, so I gather they intend to go after end users for "stripping off" copyright information on those header files. Ridiculous and cynical as that may sound, that is their strained plan. No doubt they figure the DMCA gives them muscles that AT&T didn't have back when the original case was before the courts. But those are the files. Sontag hinted that they might add copyright claims to the IBM case over those same header files at some point.

My overall impression was that they were very uncomfortable. It began with calls for civility, which turned out not to be necessary. Everyone was polite. But clearly Harvard had gotten a lot of complaints, judging from their remarks. They have invited Chris Stone of Novell to speak there in three weeks on February 23. Details will be on their website.

They continued to repeat the same untrue "facts" about the GPL, that it forces you to give your software away free, blah blah. I hardly think explaining it one more time will help them, since it's clearly volitional. They've got their story and they're sticking to it. Darl said when you go to court, the rubber hits the road. I assume he means by that you have to get it actually sorted out with facts. He was asked how he can sue without having established copyrights, but he danced around without answering that directly. No doubt that rubber will hit the road when he sues the first end user.

Clearly they have something in that settlement agreement, which Noorda was a party to, and the rest of us were not, and they plan on springing it on a startled and totally innocent end user soon, who will be befuddled as to how he is responsible for complying with a sealed agreement he isn't a party to and doesn't have a clue what it says. Of course, they don't tell you what it says. They would rather surprise you. Well, good luck, cowboys. We'll see how it plays in a court of law.

He tried to answer Eben Moglen's illustration about going to Barnes and Noble and buying a book and having SCO leap into your living room and say, I'm suing you for reading that book. He said it's more like you get the book without paying for it and then you make copies and give them to 500 friends. He said that is how it is with Linux. Companies get one copy and make tons more. The part he misses is that the writers of the code have no problem with that, so it would be more like if I write a book and say you can read the book as often as you like and you can copy it and give it to whomever you wish. If I, the author, say you can, who is to say I can't? Well, SCO would like to. Of course, they said the opposite too. Lots of conflicting remarks. And they both looked like they were trying to ease out of a saloon filled with cowboys who thought they'd stolen their cattle. Immediately at the close, although the moderator said all could stay around and chat, Darl couldn't be seen in the frame any more. Just poof.


Here's a mainstream account. And UserFriendly.