The war of words between the SCO Group and the Linux community escalated this week in a flurry of open letters, the latest from Linux creator Linus Torvalds.
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In a letter dated Tuesday (9 September), the maintainer of the Linux kernel dismissed an offer from SCO chief executive officer Darl McBride to negotiate the dispute with the open-source community.
"There doesn't seem to be anything to negotiate about. SCO has yet to show any infringing IP (intellectual property) in the open-source domain," Torvalds wrote.
Torvalds also had a few sarcastic words for SCO, noting that it was ironic that SCO acquired much of its capital from an initial public offering based on a Linux business model.
"We have to sadly decline taking business model advice from a company that seems to have squandered all of its money... and now seems to play the US legal system like a lottery," he wrote.
SCO, which previously operated under the name Caldera Systems, once operated as a Linux distributor. The company has seen its status in the open-source community plummet over the past year, however, as its anti-Linux rhetoric has increased.
In March, the company sued IBM, claiming that IBM illegally contributed code to Linux. Since then, SCO has alleged that Linux contains a number of copyright and other intellectual property violations, and it has demanded that Linux users pay it a $700 per processor licensing fee to bring their systems in compliance.
These charges led to lawsuits from both Red Hat and IBM, and appear to have inspired a number of denial-of-service attacks on SCO's website.
McBride issued an open letter calling on the open-source community to help the industry police crimes like the denial of service attacks and to "follow the rules and procedures that govern mainstream society", and said that his company is "open to ideas of working with the open-source community to monetise software technology and its underlying intellectual property for all contributors."
McBride's letter was quickly followed by a reply signed by open-source advocates Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens blasting the SCO letter, calling it a "farrago of falsehoods, half-truths, evasions, slanders and misrepresentations".
In an interview, Raymond dismissed McBride's offer of negotiation. "I don't think there's any sincere offer in this letter. I think it's just posturing," he said.
Raymond reiterated Torvalds' demand that SCO back up its claims by identifying the allegedly infringing Linux code. "Show us the problem and we'll fix it," Raymond said.
SCO has offered to reveal its code, but only under a nondisclosure agreement, something that open-source developers like Torvalds and Raymond have refused to sign, saying that such an agreement runs counter to open-source principles and could restrict their ability to write open-source code.
"We can't have people signing nondisclosure agreements because in the future they might be working on the Linux kernel and, in general, signing nondisclosure agreements is against our values," Raymond said.
The Perens/Raymond letter can be found here: http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/mcbride2.html
Torvalds' letter is as follows:
9 September 2003
Open letter to Darl McBride - please grow up.
Thank you so much for your letter.
We are happy that you agree that customers need to know that open source is legal and stable, and we heartily agree with that sentence of your letter. The others don't seem to make as much sense, but we find the dialogue refreshing.
However, we have to sadly decline taking business model advice from a company that seems to have squandered all its money (that it made off a Linux IPO, I might add, since there's a nice bit of irony there), and now seems to play the US legal system as a lottery. We in the open source group continue to believe in technology as a way of driving customer interest and demand.
Also, we find your references to a negotiating table somewhat confusing, since there doesn't seem to be anything to negotiate about. SCO has yet to show any infringing IP in the open source domain, but we wait with bated breath for when you will actually care to inform us about what you are blathering about.
All of our source code is out in the open, and we welcome you point to any particular piece you might disagree with.
Until then, please accept our gratitude for your submission.
Robert McMillian writes for IDG News Service