Back in June, there was a protest by Linux users at SCO headquarters,
which received some coverage in the press, including here on Groklaw. I
now have a transcript of the conversation between SCO CEO Darl McBride
and the protesters. I've also listened to the tape to verify the
accuracy of the transcript, and you can do the same if you can play .ogg files, here. There are a couple of places where the
sound isn't clear, so I've indicated that in the transcript.
McBride talks about a number of issues, such as SGI, whether SCO
intended to sue end users or commercial only, how and when they
discovered the alleged "infringement", Caldera's contributions to Linux, and whether Debian is a safe
version of GNU/Linux to use because of its noncommercial nature. He also tells them that SCO isn't interested in suing individual users or even small commercial users. Its beef, he says, is with the "Unix vendor community", UNIX-licensing companies switching to Linux and donating code to Linux so they don't have to pay any more royalties to SCO for Unix code, "the vendors that are getting an
economic incentive to reducing the amount of royalties that they pay
by virtue of taking our property and putting it into Linux, then turn
around and saying it's a free system." He mentions that they were talking about 64-way systems, not home users.
He also says they found "hundreds of thousands of lines of code that are infringing against our contracts." Note the plural on contracts. He claims the increase in functionality in Linux is because of "vendors" that SCO has "confidentiality agreements" with. Again, note the plural.
A lot has changed since June, but it's clear that when this began, SCO had in mind a very small pool of targets, UNIX vendors being a small group of companies. What stands out is that I think you'll see how polite the Linux group is,
how friendly the conversation was even when strong points were being made by each side, McBride praising them several times and at the end thanking them for their input and calling them "awesome". How different this reality is from the ugly portrait he has tried to
paint in the media of users of GNU/Linux software allegedly "attacking" SCO. And when you hear or read it, ask yourself, how accurate were news reports of this event? But judge for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
of informal group chit-chat with Darl McBride
Members of the Provo Linux
Users Group (PLUG), along with other Linux and Unix group members and
concerned individuals in the area held a protest against SCO on June
20, 2003. This protest began in front of SCO headquarters in the
afternoon. The official
PLUG protest web site, with pictures and video, can be seen at http://mirror.lug-nut.com/
After protesting in front
of the SCO corporate offices (on a cul-de-sac), many in the group
moved to a more visible location, a busy intersection nearby. A
little while later, Darl McBride stopped by for an informal chit-chat
with the demonstrators on his way home. Here is
what was said during the 23-minute conversation.
Darl: SCO CEO Darl McBride
P: Protester (the
collective group, with various individuals asking questions)
Pleasant Grove Police
Officer: Pleasant Grove Police Officer
Darl: So, how's the
P: Oh, pretty well.
We had more people than we expected. We talked to some of your
engineers outside, and they're really nice people.
Darl(0:11): So how
did all that go?
P: Oh, really well . . .
Darl(0:16): So you
guys are just convinced that we're Satanic? Is that it?
P: No, no, no.
P: Just greedy,
P: We wouldn't use
those words. We would use different ones.
P: We don't say
Satanic, but we don't respect what's happening.
P: Yeah, I mean, we
obviously don't know what's going on 100%. And, we feel like the
whole world is being kinda kept out of the loop. But we, the number
one reason that we're out here is because we feel that there's a lot
of FUD going around about Linux right now. Businesses are trying to
be scared off to using Linux. I mean, IBM might be at fault, and if
they are, they should be punished for what they did. . .
Darl: So your whole
basic concern is just the whole FUD side of the issue.
P: Right. Now
people aren't going to use Linux because of
this IBM lawsuit, when IBM is not the one that's hurt. We're the
guys who actually program this stuff in our spare time.
P: We're worried
about claims being made without any proof being shown, and it's ...
P: And we don't see
the legal basis for an NDA to see the supposed code you're offering
you know that's a good one. A lot of people have been concerned
about the NDA. You know, the basis for that is we have these software
agreements that we have made with large vendors around the world and
it basically says "We have to protect the software code,"
and in order to basically license this you have to sign up to say,
this is confidentially protected and you won't share this
with somebody else. So, if we turned around and opened this
code up, like if I showed you the code, I mean, I've got it right
here. . .
P: Do we want to
see that, or are we at liability? No, I'm dead serious. Are we at
liability if we see that? I'm not kidding.
Darl(1:50): I'm not
going to show you. But, the point is we found hundreds of thousands
of lines of code that are infringing against our contracts. Okay?
Now we went through the process, and everybody said, wait, if this is, just show us ten lines of code. If it's really that
bad, just show us ten lines of code. We don't want to wait two
years. See, your point about FUD, if there's something there, we
want to see it right now.
P: Well, we can fix
P: So, see, with
IBM, your liability claim against IBM, if that's
truly what you're seeking, it doesn't matter if we fix it and
take it out, you can still show that IBM put it in there.
Darl: Right, so let
P: So, what's the
point of ...
Darl(2:27): So the
point is this. Our agreements say that it's protected. Now by us
going out and this becomes unprotected. ..
P: ...and rather
than just saying where in the Linux kernel itself . . .
Darl: Like if I
show you this side of the page, it's okay. I mean, this is Linux.
This is out and everybody can see it, okay. But if you look at the
other side that I'm not going to show you right now, this actually is
protected code that nobody is able to see without, you know, being
under one of our protected agreements. It's not about showing the
code to keep it protected. It's just that it's protected.
P: So why not
indicate the lines in the Linux kernel without showing us your code?
Because then by definition, we have exposed the code that is
protected. Does that make sense?
P: It already has
P: That's kind of
Exactly. By us coming out and saying where it is and what it is,
that's where it becomes a problem.
P: A different
question along the same lines. Caldera in the past has contributed a
lot to Linux.
But we haven't contributed our Unix code. That's the differnce.
P: But, according
to... I read something about an engineer who used to work at Caldera
that said the other day that said there was code that was, that
Caldera did put ...
is code that we have agreed to put in there, and we've had (unclear), but the code that we're finding infringing is not the code that
we've agreed to contribute.
P: Why instead of
following the model that AT&T set for this, that is showing what
lines of code that is, at least giving an opportunity to remove the
code, instead of suing for 3 billion dollars? There's a big
difference. Because AT&T found similar problems with BSD, and you
could see their motives. They really wanted that code out of there
so that they could continue with their proprietary Unix.
Now the difference with
SCO being that they're not concerned about that so much as they were
waiting for code to be in there, and once they found it, they said
"We're not going to tell you so that. We don't want to give
you an opportunity to remove it so Linux can be free of Unix and Unix
can be free of Linux."
P: Trojan horse
P: Why, instead of
showing a certain amount of greed, and saying "We will sue
for $3 billion, and we won't give the Linux community an opportunity
to remove that code", why aren't you giving the Linux
community an opportunity to remove that code? It just seems like the
only motivation behind not telling that,
and giving the opportunity to remove that, would be greed.
Darl(4:48): Well, I
think going back to the economic side of it, the flip side of this
argument is, so SCO is a company that for twenty years had Unix on
Intel. They have a twenty-year legacy of selling that type of product
line. And as you go into the turn of the century, Linux had moved
along, and the 2.2 version of the kernel, you know, it was doing
rather nicely, you could do two or four way systems together, and
that was nice.
But what's happened, from
Linux 2.4 that came out, what was it, January 2001 or so, to current,
there have been millions of systems shipped into the marketplace, OK?
And the code increase during that period of time -- I'm sorry,
the functionality increase of Linux during that point in time -- has
gone up dramatically. And, with respect to scalability, and ability
to get high-end enterprise scalability, and a lot of the code
increase has come, and the functionality increase has come, from the
vendors that we have these confidentiality agreements with.
And so the question that
came up earlier, was, you know, we're all working for free on
this stuff. We have no problem with all of you guys that are
working on this stuff for free. The problem we have on the
economic modeling side of this, is the vendors that are getting an
economic incentive to reducing the amount of royalties that they pay
by virtue of taking our property and putting it into Linux, then turn
around and saying it's a free system.
P: The same pattern
was followed by AT&T, though, with BSD.
but during that same period of time, there was still a lot of
economic value to the System V code base.
P: Well, sir, if
you don't mind my asking. ..
P: What is the absolute
definitive answer to the question of why can't we just take the
code out? I mean what... honestly, Linux is my livelihood
right now. That's where I've been making all my money. If that goes
away, you put a family on the street.
and we're not trying to get Linux to go away. We're trying to get
damages that have been done to this company, a company that used to
have a few hundred... You want to talk about economic damages. . .
P: Well, damages, I
mean, you're damaging my livelihood now. Should I turn around and
hundreds of companies that used to work for this company that don't
work here anymore. You know, revenue streams have gone from
hundreds of millions down to 50, OK, 50, 60 in the last year, and
so the question is, is intellectual property protectable, or
not? Now we're in litigation, we're trying to get these things
resolved. Now, you'll notice we haven't gone out and attacked
RedHat. We haven't sued them.
P: You just
P: Sent out
thousands of threatening letters.
P: 1500. (laughter
Darl: The point, the part of the concern...
P: I've read
several quotes where it says that individual users of Linux could
possibly in the future be held accountable.
Darl: So the
problem then is when you have infringed code that is sitting there on
P: I have a
uniprocessor system at home. I'm never going to touch any of this
other code. Why should I have to pay a license for UNIX where ...
talking about commercial users.
P: What's the
Darl: We didn't
send you a letter, right? We sent it out to commercial users.
P: But the FUD is
that I've read, I don't remember if it was you or Sontag, that said
that individual users might have to pay sometime. And that kind of
trash talking, I mean, the thing with IBM I think should be
Darl(8:05): Let me
set one thing straight right now for you guys. We are not going
after individual users. We're trying to say people who are
commercially getting gain on this. And people who were getting
commercial gain on Unix, and now they've gone over to this system.
That is really where we have a major problem. That's where we're
P: What's to stop
you from pursuing that venture in the future?
P: My company uses
Linux, so are you going after my company?
Darl: So, the
question. Again, our focus is not on end users right now. We
believe that there has been an IP hot potato that has been passed
down to end users. And we are trying to get that resolved with the
Unix vendor community.
P: So, if I use
Debian, which is a completely open-source distribution, nonprofit,
why would I be possibly liable in the future for something, I mean. .
can't... Again, when I look at Debian versus what we're talking
about with enter... I would really draw the line on enterprise class
Linux versus what you're talking about. Right? 'Cause I think that
there's a huge difference. I mean, when I hear what
you're talking about, the thing that is interesting is, I would argue
the point which is that's not where we're trying to go. Okay.
Because our real beef is where the thing has been highly
commercialized. When you get a 64-way system, and my guess is that
the one you're using at home is not a 64-way system, right? That is
really where we have a lot of concern.
P: So, you opened,
was it Unixware 3, or OpenSystem 3, I can't recall. It was back in
2000, you basically made that source code available to everybody.
wasn't Unixware. We've never taken our System V code and made that
P: No it was system
3 of something.
Darl(9:42): It was
very, very early versions of that go back into the '70's that predate
the commercialized versions of any of the forms of Unix. So, again,
we would agree that there's things out there that, we're not trying to
round up all this stuff and say "Boy, every ounce of Unix that
is out there is protectable and SCO owns all this stuff", and
you know that's not what we're saying, our focus is on the
P: So, give me an
example. If I create an embedded system, say an access point, or
some motor controlling module, that uses a Linux kernel, is that
infringing on SCO's intellectual property?
that's hard for me to say right now with respect to what you just
said about that.
P: Hewlett Packard
has stated that they're supporting Debian. Would that be an
infringing instance right there? It's major commercialized corporate
backing. It's a non-profit distribution.
what I would say. In May, we had a lot of folks that were very
concerned that, you know, that this was a big FUD case, and you guys
didn't even have any code inside Linux, and so we said, you know
what? We went back and said from a legal standpoint we're going to
open some of this up just so that people understand that there are
direct files of System V showing up in Linux. Then we said, we're
going to move on and go through the month of June, and show this to
people. And we've been showing it. Had dozens of people who have
seen it. And every day, more people roll into here in Lindon, and we
show them the code.
And further what we've
said is that when we get into July, we're gonna come back. We're
getting feedback right now, and I would view this as a form of
feedback, you guys are obviously telling us what you think. We're
hearing feedback from users. (unclear) And then when we get into
P: What about all
of your copyright violations? Not abiding by the copyright on the
stuff that you have profited from all these years?
Darl: We haven't
seen those violations. But let me just finish up here...
P: Have you ever
read the license you distributed it under?
Darl: I've said
that as we move into July, what we want to be able to do is come out
and state definitively, here's where we are. Here's how we want
to try and move forward. And...
P: Suppose a
company that's based in Lindon that makes a lot of money off of
technology has a web server that runs Linux. Would they be in
infringement of your copyright? Like SCO, or something
back to web servers is not where I see the big problem.
P: (snickering in crowd)
you talk about highly-scalable systems, and again, I'm not going to
sit here today and say that that day in Lindon, Utah, on the corner
of I-15 and 1600 North, we defined all the
rules of this here. [laughter] What I'm trying to say here
is the general approach here is ... individual use of
P: ... guys, he
says we're too close to the road here.
commercialized Linux that has derived great benefit from
folks that have Unix contracts with us is where we have a lot
of problems. And our real goal as we get into July, we want to come
out and definitively say "Here's how we're gonna try and move
forward, and here's how we want to see things go forward."
P: So, how is it
cut and dry where the infringement occurred? Do you have substantial
proof that one company ...
P: What about SGI?
I mean, they've contributed significant code to NUMA scalabilities,
so how is it that you're going after IBM but yet SGI is free and
clear for the time being?
haven't said who's free and clear. What we have said is we have
significant problems with IBM, we're working through those issues
right now, and we hope to get resolution to those. But, ya know,
we're working through these issues, we're dealing with them on a
case-by-case basis, and we want to get resolution.
P: Have you ever
read the GNU Public License?
P: Well, what
about 100 thousand lines of copyright infringement on your part for
every, maybe, one line that there might allegedly be on anyone else's
Pleasant Grove Police
Officer: Is there anything else here that we need to address?
Darl: I think we're
okay. Everybody has moved over here [unclear]. I just stopped to
say hi to these guys for a minute. I'm gonna take off right now, so
I think we're fine. . .but I appreciate...
P: Before you take
off, I was not able to get a very good picture of you off the web.
Do you mind if I get another picture with you?
[unclear... laughter] You guys are awesome. I gotta go home, and you
guys have a good weekend.
P: While you're
grabbing a picture, I did have one other question. So, you've talked
about how your intent isn't to go after end users, and how certain
companies you're not expecting to prosecute, whereas other companies
you are. We see this as sort of uncertainty as much as the fear and
doubt that SCO is propagating. We would enjoy an on-the-record
statement from your company saying more or less the things you just
I appreciate that. When you talk about fear, uncertainty and doubt,
I mean, the point is that it is very certain that there is
copyrighted code infringement violation problems we're dealing with
here. And, it's also very certain that as we get into the next
month, we want to try and figure out how to move things forward in a
way that, you know, we can live together peacefully. We're gonna
attempt to do that.
P: Is there
anything that we can do as a ...
P: ... [unclear]
unsettling with all the people you've infringed? All of the
contributors to Unix, where you're not ... Where you're no longer
honoring the GPL?
haven't seen that.
P: Yea, of course.
Because that's your own attorneys. . .
P: Do you hope that
the Linux kernel becomes completely Unix-free? Completely free of any
potential copyright violations or patent violations, and everything?
Is that your ultimate hope right there? Do you ...?
here's what I would say. I think on the Linux side, it's pretty
clear that the processes are -- first of all, I think that the model
here of you guys all being involved, and people all around the world
being involved, and contributing in, and being involved as part of
this community is outstanding. You know. Hats off. That's a very
cool deal, OK?
The part that is
concerning is that when the code goes into the kernel, there is in
fact not a vetting process to make sure there's not code violations
in place. One of the hopes that I would have coming through this
process that we would all come out with is a mechanism whereby the
code can be vetted, it can be safe, it can be secure, so that we
don't have these kind of problems coming up in the future.
P: So is that a yes
or a no? Do you hope that the Linux kernel is completely free of
any violations whatsoever?
P: I have one other
Darl: That's what I
P: How would this
vetting process work?
that's what I think needs to be understood and put together here with
people that ...
P: Linux developers
don't have any access to know what the other code, where things came
Darl: Exactly, and
that's where I think there's an opportunity to in fact work together
on some of this. There's been sort of a "don't ask, don't tell"
process over here which is ask for forgiveness, not permission, and
to the extent that you can get some kind of an equilibrium here,
where you've got proprietary here and you've got open over here. To
the extent that we can come together, there some modeling there, I'm
all for that.
P: Do you actually
have any quotation that shows that there's a "don't ask, don't
tell" policy? The only quotation we've seen is with respect to
patents, which is the same thing any patent
attorney says. With respect to copyright, I believe that what
you're saying here is a gross misrepresentation, and that the Linux
process is very much better than your wholesale copying of Linux into
your source tree.
think when we look at this, you'll find... You've seen a lot of
people out there in industry today that are understanding that there
are issues and problems with the very process by which Linux comes
P: As well as
so, what needs to happen, I believe, in this process is that some of
these things are put together more tightly.
P: Is BSD free of
any copyright violations?
can't answer right now. I haven't done the same kind ...
P: When you say
you're not after the end users, are you interested in suing
companies that sell Unix operating systems, Unix-like operating
systems, not companies that use them or buy them?
just fundamentally not interested in tracking down end users like
P: Can I have that
C: I've got it on
P: Here's my
question. It seems from all the things I've read, and all the
research I've done that SCO is more interested in trying to get money
back for the damages than for actually cleaning up the Linux code and
making sure that everything's put in its place. Is that true, or are
you . . .?
Darl(18:28): As we
get into July, we want to try and try and figure out methods how we
can move forward. It's not ...
P: It seems to me that
Darl: There's no
doubt we've had significant damages. That's not the only goal in
P: It seems you
could say lines this or this and this and this and this and this
violate, send that out, it doesn't matter any of your problems, and
just give people a chance to fix it. But it seems you're more
interested in getting $3 billion, than in actually making Linux free
Darl(18:54): No, I
wouldn't say that.
P: After the dust
settles, what becomes of SCO?
Darl: Well, I think
P: Because, right
now, I think lots of people feel, you know, [car ignition starting]
Linux is what everyone uses these days, and SCO is doing this because
Unix isn't selling. So after this lawsuit, I personally don't think
a lot of people are going to be interested in buying SCO Unix, except
people who already have a strong basis. . .
right now we think... We already know what people are buying from
us, and seven of the largest retailers in the world use SCO Unix.
McDonald's uses SCO Unix. Biotech uses SCO Unix.
P: But a lot of
people are moving to Linux. So, they're looking for reasons to
Darl(19:37): And so
the point is there used to be hundreds of millions of dollars in
revenue here. It's obviously come down. In terms of how we go
forward . . .
Darl(19:47): So we
need to step forward and say here's how we're moving forward with our
version of Unix. Here's how we work with Linux. Here's how this
thing moves forward.
P: How are you
going to work with Linux?
stay tuned in July. That's really what we plan to come out with.
Darl(20:00): Hey, I
gotta run. Guys, I appreciate ya.
P: Thanks so much.
P: Thanks for
talking to us.
P: Thank you.
P: And thanks for
explaining to us.
Darl: Yeah, I mean
I understand. It's a big issue. It's a big issue for all of us.
P: This is one of
P: But you said
that the copyright issues that you're violating, it's not an issue
for you. . .
Darl: And it is one
of the biggest problems in the industry, and that's why we all need
to get it fixed together, and move forward.
P: Is that a
commitment to fix your copyright violations?
P: That's a good
We feel very comfortable with where we are with our IP on
this so ... [unclear]
rampant violation of the GPL?
P: Will any third
parties have a chance to go through the SCO source code and see if
they've done violations of the GPL?
well, again, our source code is protected material, so...
P: Like a third
party that has...
Absolutely, [unclear] really ought to do that.
P: but the fact
that they've shipped Linux for years, and now are not willing to
abide by its license, which means that the years they've supplied it
they've been in violation.
P: ...applies to
P: They shipped
Linux . . .
Darl: We obviously
have problems. Now one issue here is a distribution is not the same
as a donation, right? Somebody donated code that is protected by us
through other agreements in there. When it goes in, it doesn't say
"this was SCO protected code." We only found out about
this a couple months ago. That's when we said "we've gotta stop
this until we get this figured out."
P: How did you find
what happened is after we filed the IBM lawsuit, we were in the
process of ... This was... Clearly we found code that related to
IBM. That is what led us to go into the lawsuit, and in the process
of getting ready for that litigation, there was a deep dive that was
going on, to comparing code bases in Linux and Unix, and it coughed
up during that [unclear] process.
P: Isn't it
possible that someone was just inspired by work they'd done for other
companies? Isn't that reasonable?
reasonable, except when the comment codes are the same, the humor
lines in the comment code are the same, and the typos in the comment
code are the same, then you start getting beyond... Ya know, it was
kind of like, I learned this one day at school ... It becomes more of
the... Those, to me, are really the DNA of the code here.
P: But the question
is, can you say which one comes first? For example, we know that we
can see the change log on ...
Darl: Yeah, it's
P: Can we tell that
SCO isn't the one that ...
Darl: Yeah. We've
gone through this. It's really clear.
Darl: We want to
get to a good solution.
Darl: And we want
to get this resolved, and ya know, we're working to that end, and I
appreciate you, guys. You're on that end too.
P: The thing that
we ask is that you just make it clear that you're attacking IBM, not
Darl(22:38): I appreciate what you're saying. OK.
P: Do you mind if we publish this? A transcript of this?
Darl: You know, I said everything that I said, so you know, I didn't put you under NDA, so obviously you guys will do whatever you're gonna do.
P: We'll try not to take
it out of context.
Darl: I appeciate that.