Thoughts on Darl: Beliefs vs. Tactics


February 4, 2004

I attended Monday’s presentation by Darl McBride of SCO. You can even see me asking Darl a question about SCO going after end-users (I’m the guy with the EFF t-shirt at the bottom-center of the picture). For a few months, I’ve been asking myself whether SCO truly believes their own story, or whether they’re simply using all legal and illegal means to “increase shareholder value.” It’s an interesting question to ask yourself in general when arguing with someone: is this person standing up for a certain principle they believe in, or just trying to win the fight and get the prize? Is this Beliefs, or is this Tactics?

I spent the couple of hours of the talk and Q&A session thinking about SCO’s arguments, observing Darl’s reactions to various comments, all to basically answer that one question. My conclusion: SCO doesn’t believe its own story. SCO is using vague arguments about copyright law, “cyber-terrorism,” and software buzzwords like “enterprise-ready” to extort the Linux community.

SCO has many different stories. They claim the GPL is unconstitutional, yet when pressed about their use and distribution of Samba, they say “we have nothing against free software, we even participate sometimes.” They frame the debate as FOR or AGAINST intellectual property, because that’s fashionable, yet the GPL is based on strong copyright law (and I’m pretty sure their lawyers understand this). They claim Linux was a hobbyist tool until their “enterprise-ready features” were “stolen” and incorporated, when any tech CEO with some experience knows that “enterprise-ready” is a marketing term used mostly in checkmark-comparison charts. They cherry-pick singular actions from some members of the Linux community and brand them “cyber-terrorists,” yet they have no issue with first vaguely threatening, then suing end-users of Linux before their IP claims are at all solidified. Scare tactics are okay, it seems, only if they increase shareholder value.

So what do you do if your opponent frames the debate in their own twisted way, slivers away from all the tough questions, and values winning over all other principles including accuracy? The only way to win is to refuse to fight on their terms.

I look forward to Groklaw continuing its fantastic work of carefully debunking all of SCO’s ridiculous claims. I look forward to watching the swarm of IBM lawyers slowly pick apart SCO’s arguments in court. I’m optimistic that the courts will do the right thing and see through the smokescreens and handwaving.

As for me, I’m done asking SCO questions. SCO is not seeking the truth, and thus they cannot be convinced of it. The only worhwhile efforts are those aimed at explaining the situation to the press and to the courts.

1:31 pm

Copyright 2004