Michael D. Crawford
August 9, 2003
While the lawsuits being defended by IBM [ http://ir.sco.com/ReleaseDetail.cfm?ReleaseID=103273 ] and filed by Red Hat [ http://www.redhat.com/about/presscenter/2003/press_sco.html ] are likely to put an end to The SCO Group's [ http://www.sco.com/ ] menace to the Free Software community, I don't think simply putting the company out of business is likely to prevent us from being threatened this way again by other companies who are enemies to our community. I feel we need to send a stronger message.
If we all work together, we can put the executives [ http://www.sco.com/company/execs/ ] of the SCO Group in prison where they belong.
If you live in the U.S., please write a letter to your state Attorney General [ http://www.naag.org/ag/full_ag_table.php ]. If you live elsewhere, please write your national or provincial law enforcement authorities. Please ask that the SCO Group be prosecuted for criminal fraud and extortion.
It makes me very sad to write this, because I lived in Santa Cruz for fifteen years. Sam Sjogren, a close friend from Caltech [ http://www.caltech.edu/ ], was one of SCO's first programmers, and for a little while my only friend in town after I transferred to UCSC [ http://www.ucsc.edu/ ]. Many of my best friends used to work for SCO either writing code or doing tech support. I even used to sit in the company hot tub with my friends who worked there from time to time. I used to dance to the music of SCO's company band Deth Specula [ http://www.deth.com/ ] at parties around the town.
Before I ever installed my first Linux distro - remember Yggdrasil Plug-n-Play? - I was a happy user of a fully-licensed copy of SCO Open Desktop on my 386.
You wouldn't think the SCO Group of today is the same company that once had to tell its employees that they shouldn't be naked at work between 9 and 5 because they scared the visiting suits from AT&T. That's because it's not - the SCO Group got its name and intellectual property from SCO through an acquisition. I don't think any of the friends I once knew at the company are likely to still be working there. The SCO Group is in Utah. SCO was originally called The Santa Cruz Operation, a small father-and son consulting firm named for a beautiful small town [ http://www.cruzio.com/ ] between the mountains and the ocean in central California. The Santa Cruz Operation was once as much a bunch of freethinking hippies as any Linux hacker of today.
Yes, it makes me sad. But I digress.
It seems that SCO is asking a license fee of $699 [ http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/08/05/1721238 ] for each Linux installation. Take a look at SCO's press release [ http://ir.sco.com/ReleaseDetail.cfm?ReleaseID=115527 ] announcing the licensing program. That's just the introductory price - if we don't purchase our licenses before October 15, the price will increase to $1399.
I have three computers that run Linux. That means SCO claims I must pay $2097 today, or $4197 if I wait until after October 15. SCO says their fee applies even to devices running embedded linux, many of which were purchased by their owners for far less than SCO's "license fee".
My response is that SCO is guilty of criminal fraud and extortion. I didn't violate SCO's copyright or acquire their trade secrets through any illegal means, and it is fraud for them to claim that I did. It is extortion for them to tell me I must pay them money to avoid a lawsuit.
Even if SCO's claims are true, it is not a violation of their copyright for me to possess a copy of their code. Instead, any copyright infringement was committed by the vendors who supplied me with the Linux distributions I use.
SCO's license is actually no license at all, and it is fraud for SCO to be claiming it has a right to offer a binary-only license. If anyone tries to add additional restrictions to code that is covered by the GPL, they lose the privileges the GPL granted them. Anyone who has received GPL-covered code from SCO (or anyone else) still has the rights the GPL originally granted them. However, if it should be found that Linux really does infringe on SCO's copyright, no one may copy it anymore until the code that infringes on SCO's copyright is removed. The new version will not contain any code that SCO could possibly lay any claim to.
The fear of economic harm that SCO is creating through its groundless claims is sufficient to establish a charge of extortion under the Hobbs Act [ http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/eousa/foia_reading_room/usam/title9/crm02403.htm ]. While I agree one would have to be sorely misinformed to agree to pay SCO's license fee, it is the nature of swindlers to prey upon the unfortunate and gullible.
Rather than paying their fee, my response will be to write a letter to the Maine State Attorney General to ask that they prosecute SCO. I'm going to include substantive documentation, like a hardcopy of SCO's claim that I must pay them this fee, as well as IBM's and RedHat's responses to SCO.
I'm also going to write to the Federal Trade Commission to ask that SCO be investigated for illegal trade practices.
If you live in the United States, I ask you to write a similar letter to your state Attorney General, as well as to the Federal Trade Commission. If you live in a state where a Linux distro vendor is located, or a company that has a lot of Linux installations - doesn't Amazon use it? - write to your elected representatives to ask that they work with the state and federal law enforcement authorities to see that these business are protected.
If you live in a different country, write to the head of your national or provincial law enforcement agency, and write to your government to request that it protect Linux businesses and users in your country. Certainly every German should be clamoring to protect SuSE [ http://www.suse.com/ ], and every Frenchman should be crying out for the French government to protect Mandrake [ http://www.mandrakelinux.com/en/ ].
SCO may be guilty of other crimes as well, but only certain parties have standing to complain. To file a frivolous lawsuit is an offense known as barratry [ http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barratry ], for which not only SCO but its attorneys may be prosecuted. But if this is the case it is up to IBM to bring it to the attention of the authorities.
SCO's executives may be personally guilty of violating securities law. I understand its executives have engaged in questionable insider trading, possibly to take advantage of the artificial inflation in SCO's stock price resulting from its allegations. The quantities of stock being sold off by SCO executives does not suggest they really believe they are about to win a billion dollar lawsuit. For insiders to trade based on information that is not available to the general public is an offense for which they may be subjected to stern punishment by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The stock of companies offerring Linux products and services may have been unfairly devalued as well. Stockholders in any of the affected companies - either SCO or its competitors - may wish to avail themselves of the Security and Exchange Commission's Investor Complaint Form [ http://www.sec.gov/complaint/cf942sec7040.htm ] to ask that something be done about this.
If you have the financial means and are willing to go to the trouble, please consider filing your own lawsuit to get an injunction against SCO. I'd like to see how they deal with such lawsuits going on in all fifty states simultaneously. I don't think even SCO has the money to pay that many lawyers. Perhaps this would be a good project for the larger Linux user groups.
The National Association of Attorneys General provides this Full Contact List for the Attorneys General [ http://www.naag.org/ag/full_ag_table.php ]. Perhaps people who live in other countries can reply by giving the addresses of the legal authorities your countrymen should write to.
Please send your complaint in a written letter, sent via snail mail. They will pay more attention to letters than email. Be reasonable, rational, and as brief as possible. Include some supporting documentation, such as relevant press releases from SCO, Red Hat [ http://www.redhat.com/about/presscenter/2003/press_sco.html ] and IBM, as well as the legal complaints from SCO [ http://www.sco.com/scosource/complaint3.06.03.html ] and (if they make it available) Red Hat.
Be sure to tell your Attorney General where they can find the suspects:
The SCO Group
355 South 520 West
Lindon, Utah 84042 USA
Consider posting the text of the letter you will write as a reply to this article so others may use it as an example.
It would help to include in your letter an estimate the total license fees that would have to be paid by residents and businesses of your state, nation or province if SCO's threat is allowed to stand, and to emphasize that many of those who are threatened are in no position to pay.
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Copyright © 2003 Michael D. Crawford.
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