McBride Trolls, Hoping You'll Say Something Legally Stupid

Tuesday, September 09 2003 @ 01:38 AM EDT

Contributed by: PJ

One thing McBride doesn't lack is chutzpah, and so he has written a crafty open letter to "the Open Source Community". Ostensibly, he would like you to work with SCO to develop a business model for open source software:

"A sustainable business model for software development can be built only on an intellectual property foundation. I invite the Open Source community to explore these possibilities for your own benefit within an Open Source model. Further, the SCO Group is open to ideas of working with the Open Source community to monetize software technology and its underlying intellectual property for all contributors, not just SCO."

That of course sounds a little fishy, coming from McBride, who has not evidenced a deep concern for Linux or its coders to date. It's sounds more like the spider inviting the fly to step into the web "to do lunch". Maybe the news hasn't been able to get over the mountains and into Utah yet, or he'd know the open source community isn't interested in opportunities to monetize software technology with SCO. The responses he is getting might give him a clue.

As usual, you have to read between the lines with SCO. What he has done is present his side of everything to the public at large, twisting the community's position, and he doesn't care what you say back, I don't believe, unless of course you'd sincerely be interested in selling out or would be so kind as to say something usefully stupid that he can trot out in the press or in a court of law.

The wilder the responses, the better he would probably like it, judging from the way he uses Eric Raymond on the alleged "series of Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks" (McBride claims there were 4) and distorts Bruce Perens' words in a way he believes is to SCO's advantage. He lectures the community that it's bad to DoS a business, as if we feel otherwise. Many of us are in business ourselves, Mr. McBride. He just can't get over his hippie concept of Linux users and programmers. But then, he declares his desire to work together, as if he were part of the community, or wanted to be. Here's an example:

"Finally, it is clear that the Open Source community needs a business model that is sustainable, if it is to grow beyond a part-time avocation into an enterprise-trusted development model. Free Open Source software primarily benefits large vendors, which sell hardware and expensive services that support Linux, but not Linux itself. By providing Open Source software without a warranty, these largest vendors avoid significant costs while increasing their services revenue. Today, that's the viable Open Source business model. Other Linux companies have already failed and many more are struggling to survive. Few are consistently profitable. It's time for everyone else in the industry, individuals and small corporations, to under [sic] this and to implement our own business model -- something that keeps us alive and profitable."

Us? Who's the "we" in this picture? SCO and Linux are now "we"? Do you think it's possible he isn't being honest? Could it be the battering-husband-when-he's-acting-nice syndrome again? Whatever he is motivated by, there is no "we" for SCO and Linux. He wishes to tempt us with a hint of money? Who is this guy? No, who does he think we are? I have a piece of news for you, Mr. McBride. We don't want your business model to keep "alive and profitable", and so we won't work with you or buy your products or sell out. That's your misfortune and your miscalculation.

I will let those named defend themselves, but one segment gives me real pleasure, because it's a big, big hint that SCO still doesn't understand the GPL, and that means they can't possibly have anything truly effective up their sleeves. His lecture on the sanctity of IP includes this astounding bit:

"In copyright law, ownership cannot be transferred without express, written authority of a copyright holder. Some have claimed that, because SCO software code was present in software distributed under the GPL, SCO has forfeited its rights to this code. Not so -- SCO never gave permission, or granted rights, for this to happen.

"Transfer of copyright ownership without express written authority of all proper parties is null and void."

Of course, no one has claimed their copyright. I won't explain it any more clearly than that, because I want them to slip on a banana peel in court. And now I know they will. I feel a deep sense of happiness on reading his oily words on the GPL. Big hint to SCO: Linux kernel coders have copyright rights on their code, and as you say, there can be no transfer without express written authority of all proper parties.

If you share your views with him, or give him a piece of your mind, I hope you will do so in a way to dignify the community. I expect they intend to keep a list. For all I know they are just trying to get people to step forward for that very purpose, the ultimate troll, so to speak, so think before you write. Better yet, ask your attorney. Here is one response over on Linux World I noted, because it sounds like he speaks from personal knowledge of some of SCO's history. His personal opinion is that McBride is risking a defamation lawsuit:

"D. Jeff Dionne commented on 8 September 2003:

"1. What a member of a community does is the responsibility of that individual. The actions of one person cannot be used to stigmatize a group (or any others at all). . . .

"2. There is considerable evidence that there was in fact no DOS of SCO's machines. If this proves to be the case, SCO will have to be held accountable for it's allegations.

"3. SGI is on record that it's legal team went through the xfs sources to approve the release. The code in question is clean according to this audit... if it is not then that is a mistake. In any case, it was corrected, and the (appropriate, responsible) proceedures followed to insure that intellectual property of others was protected is a matter of public record. Stated another way, it can be clearly shown that the accepted industry process (code audit) was carried out and that it was carred out to respect the rights and property of others.

"4. Making allegations of not respecting intellectual property comes (at least) close to defamation. In light of 3, and knowing that SCO was a party (as all enterprise linux vendors were) to the very public work SGI did to contribute xfs to Linux, one has to hold SCO accountable for knowingly making such false and damaging statements.

"5. If there is code (for instance) in the SMP support which is SCO's property, that code is limited to the code itself. There is no legal theory that can be presented that will stand scrutiny that will allow you to claim 1m lines of code derived from it. Put another way, _calling_ a function cannot make the work that calls it a derived work in the general case or all programs would be a derived work of the platform they run on.

"6. Open Source and Free Software are not business models. They [are a] process and philosophy which is used to generate software for the benefit of everyone. Stated another way, they are designed to make the benefit of the development effort accrue to the public.

"7. There is no such thing as 'Free Open Source' The terms 'Free Software' and 'Open Source' are valid terms, however they are not interchangeable.

"8. SCO spent many years as a member of the Open Source community. It knows that the community hold property and the law in high regard and respects those laws. SCO also knows that the GPL relies on copyright. SCO knows this because lawers for another Canopy company examined the foundations of the GPL in depth and also offered GPL indemnity. This is known to Blake Stowell, who was involved in that effort.

"9. If the Open Source movement is based on anti-establisment principals, SCO must also be based on them because it was one of the first companies to be an 'Open Source' company. It contributed funding and engineering to the development of, and is partly responsible for, the state of the Open Source movement today.

"What SCO is doing is illegal. In the case of this letter, you have come very close to defaming myself and other Linux developers. Seek legal advice before posting such things, we will hold you accountable."