What makes the bullying of Linux customers so ironic is that Microsoft already has been found guilty of antitrust practices, yet the company now hides behind SCO and funnels them money, while SCO attempts to crush Linux by suing users and software vendors.
Why would Microsoft want to crush Linux? The answer is simple: Linux threatens Microsoft in the arena of departmental servers and web servers. Many corporate customers are moving to Linux to host databases and websites because Linux is less buggy than Windows and more secure against virus software. Yet, the biggest threat to Microsoft is not Linux from a technical perspective; instead, it is the prospect of not having monopoly power.
What are these Linux lawsuits about, and who are the players? SCO has filed suit against IBM and two companies that use Linux — DaimlerChrysler and AutoZone. These lawsuits claim that portions of Linux were stolen from Unix, which SCO now owns. The battle has heated up recently with a threat from SCO CEO Darl McBride to block Novell from purchasing a Linux company, promising that SCO would start suing more Fortune 1000 users that dare to use Linux.
So then, what is the Microsoft connection? To start with, Bill Gates owned 17 percent of SCO in the 1990s. This in itself does not prove anything, but the abrupt change in SCO's attitude a few years ago is a cause for suspicion when viewed along with hidden cash flow from Microsoft to SCO.
SCO is suing companies based on its claim that Linux contains Unix material. Yet, before the Microsoft money trail began, SCO appeared to relinquish its hold on the Unix copyrights to the world. In 2002, SCO released all of its source code with this public statement:
"Caldera International Inc. (SCO) hereby grants a fee-free license that includes the rights to use, modify and distribute this named source code, including creating derived binary products created from the source code."
Yet soon after this, Microsoft began funneling in millions of dollars to SCO through questionable purchases and even more shady means. Recently, Robert McGrath of BayStar Capital in San Francisco admitted, "Senior Microsoft executives recommended they invest $50 million last October in Caldera International."
This shocking information came from an email allegedly sent by an SCO whistle blower and is now posted on www.opensource.org.
In another attempt to bolster SCO's bogus Linux lawsuits, Microsoft has now become a reseller of Linux, recognizing SCO as the owner of Linux. This partnership has resulted in more millions of dollars for SCO, yet it also seems to be another attempt to bolster SCO's claim that it owns portions of Linux. Thus Microsoft's strange Linux partnership appears to be only another attempt to spread fear throughout the Linux community.
For adult content providers who prefer the world of open-source databases, PHP and Linux, the question is — should you fear these lawsuits? Well, ideally, one should ignore them. Users should be able to purchase any software they chose in a free market without lawsuits being funded indirectly by the competition as an attempt to bully customers.
What SCO is doing is like Sears threatening to sue anyone who did not buy a Kenmore dishwasher. The lawsuits do nothing for the consumer but attempt to bully him or her into staying away from Linux. I would encourage readers to have this initial attitude when researching the impact of the SCO lawsuits on your purchasing decisions.
Webmasters Not Targeted?
The first fact in favor of adult webmasters is that SCO has only gone after large Fortune 1000 companies. Playboy Enterprises might pause when considering this, but most adult web-hosting companies are not in the Fortune 1000.
The second point in favor of Linux users is that regardless of how the lawsuits between SCO and players like IBM turn out, it will be hard for SCO to somehow penalize users for legally purchasing software from another company. In most past cases of copyright infringement, courts simply hold software companies, not customers, liable. Thus, even if you think that SCO has a great case, it is a far leap to assume that the courts would uphold customer liability.
Another possibility you might consider is purchasing a Linux product that already shields customers from prosecution. Both Lindows and SUN have paid off SCO and offer Linux versions that sidestep these lawsuits.
If you don't like the idea of paying for protection from the SCO/Microsoft gang, don't fret. Large Linux players such as IBM, Redhat and Novell are considering offering customers immunity also. It is important to check with your Linux vendors to see if immunity is something offered, since the battlefield of the Linux wars is changing constantly.
Regardless of what path you chose to take, most of the controversy around these lawsuits is simply based on press releases and psychological warfare. Fears of being sued for purchasing Linux are mostly hype. This is the goal of SCO and Microsoft, to use fear to limit consumer choices. The way to counteract this tactic is to replace your Microsoft servers with Linux servers and vote the way consumers have — with their wallets.
James Edwards is an independent Oracle software developer. He can be reached at email@example.com.