Software McCarthyism

by Michael Alderete on 5/21/2003

Reading an article on CNet today, about the SCO Group’s latest moves in their infringement case against IBM, I came to a sudden realization: the SCO Group is engaging in “software McCarthyism”.

For those that don’t know the details, SCO alleges that IBM misappropriated trade secrets and other intellectual property from SCO and added them to Linux, thereby ruining SCO’s business. They want $1 billion.

Their lawsuit is not much more than a series of wild accusations, none of which is backed up with substance. Their senior executives have been giving quite a few interviews, where they talk of “clear evidence” of “hundreds” of infringements that they will “reveal soon”, but can’t right now.

In reality, the evidence is overwhelming that SCO didn’t have anything worth stealing, and that IBM hasn’t stolen anything. But that’s not stopping SCO from pounding the drums. It’s textbook McCarthyism, wave around wild claims but keep changing the specifics, so people are wondering, “Are there 232 infringements or 487 infringements?” and not “Is there any merit here at all?”

I don’t understand SCO’s motivations. They wanted to be acquired, and thought the lawsuit would put pressure on folks to buy them out. But IBM has stated publicly that they will “blacken the sky” with lawyers, and the lawsuit itself is riddled with factual inaccuracies, to the point where some are suggesting that SCO’s suit is knowingly deceptive to a degree that they should be sanctioned under Federal civil procedure. The industry-wide (excepting Microsoft) resistance to SCO can only be toughing their opponents’ resolve. So there is no way this is going to work out well for SCO.

It is working out well for Microsoft, who is using this opportunity to continue to sow the seeds of FUD around Linux, in the hopes of slowing down the erosion of their server business (which is getting killed by Linux). Microsoft recently paid SCO a bribe to continue the lawsuit. I wonder if there is an appropriate metaphorical link from their role here to the original McCarthy.

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Quotation of the year candidate

by Michael Alderete on 2/6/2003

This rather understated quotation was in the context of a CNet article about how much money IBM is investing in Linux:

“Microsoft sees IBM spending money on Linux, making Linux more robust, getting in the way of their aspirations. I think it makes them very unhappy,” said Steve Mills [senior vice president of IBM’s Software Group].

Competition makes the industry better, so anything that makes Microsoft unhappy has got to be a good thing. Go Steve!

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