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Want to See One of the Letters to the Fortune 1500?
Thursday, November 27 2003 @ 12:01 PM EST

Step right up and take a look. Here is the letter that IBM received from SCO as one of "the notorious gang of the Fortune 1500". Who knew that being a successful company would turn out to be so unpleasant? It's Exhibit I attached to IBM's Amended Counterclaims. Thanks to Palle Raabjerg for transcribing it for us now as text and to our intrepid volunteer who got hold of the paper exhibit from the court. Here is the original of the letter to IBM, so you can compare.

You will notice some grammar errors, but they are SCO's, not Palle's. You will also notice that what Darl wrote differs considerably from what OSDL yesterday showed the actual Linux kernel development process to be like. "Numerous unrelated and unknown software developers" indeed. What hogwash.

Now that Linus has a lawyer, maybe they'll take note and consider if the necessary elements for an action for defamation are now available. They are hard cases to win, particularly for a public figure, so they may not want to go that route, but for sure one element is now in place: statements of demonstrably untrue facts. And if Darl, or anyone else, for that matter, repeats Darl's description of the Linux development process now that OSDL has explained how the process really works, that would seem to meet another element: that the party accused of defamation had knowledge that what was said was not true. You also need to prove malice. Heh heh. Herculean task, that. My, a defamation suit would feel good. Maybe not to Linus, though. He's not a litigious guy.

And how do you like this sentence?: "Commercial software is built by carefully selected and screened teams of programmers working to build proprietary, secure software." They must not keep up with the news about security problems with Microsoft's proprietary software products. I do. Here's one just today. Secure? That's laughable. The new solutions Microsoft offers for the endless stream of bugs and security woopses is bounties on the heads of virus writers and software and hardware solutions that strip away your privacy and will put us all in a digital prison, metaphorically speaking. How come GNU/Linux software doesn't need such extreme measures to be secure?

I don't know, Darl, but I don't think I'd bring up security as a selling point for the proprietary software development process, if I were you. It could lead to embarrassment. I wrote an article on the subject of security, comparing Linux with Microsoft. Bruce Schneier's Cryptogram for November 15, 2003 links to the article and says this about it: "Excellent analysis of the security of Windows vs. Linux." Maybe you should read it too. It provides some statistics on Linux and its superior security record.

There appears to be a disconnect between Darl's theory and reality. The theory is that a ragtag, unreliable, unknown group of unsupervised ruffians writes code, some of it maybe stolen, so the end result isn't secure software. Why, you can't even indemnify it, he says. In contrast, according to his theory, a hand-picked, restricted group of upright proprietary software writers produces secure code. But what we see in real life is exactly the opposite. What happened? The scientific method requires us to conclude that Darl's theory simply is not true.


May 12. 2003

Mr. Lucio A. Noto
Audit Committee Chair
International Business Machines Corporation
New Orchard Road
Armonk, NY 10504

Dear Lucio:

SCO holds the rights to the UNIX operating system software originally licensed by AT&T to approximately 6,000 companies and institutions worldwide (the "UNIX Licenses"). The vast majority of UNIX software used in enterprise applications today is a derivative work of the software originally distributed under our UNIX Licenses. Like you, we have an obligation to our shareholders to protect our intellectual property and other valuable rights.

In recent years, a UNIX-like operating system has emerged and has been distributed in the enterprise marketplace by various software vendors. This system is called Linux. We believe that Linux is, in material part, an unauthorized derivative of UNIX.

As you may know, the development process for Linux has differed substantially from the development process for other enterprise operating systems. Commercial software is built by carefully selected and screened teams of programmers working to build proprietary, secure software. This process is designed to monitor the security and ownership of intellectual property rights associated with the code.

By contrast, much of Linux has been built from contributions by numerous unrelated and unknown software developers, each contributing a small section of code. There is no mechanism inherent in the Linux development process to assure that intellectual property rights, confidentiality or security are protected. The Linux process does not prevent inclusion of code that has been stolen outright; or developed by improper use of proprietary methods and concepts.

Many Linux contributors were originally UNIX developers who had access to UNIX source code distributed by AT&T and were subject to confidentiality agreements, including confidentiality of the methods and concepts involved in software design. We have evidence that portions of UNIX System V software code have been copied into Linux and that additional other portions of UNIX System V software code have been modified and copied into Linux, seemingly for the purposes of obfuscating their original source.

As a consequence of Linux's unrestricted authoring process, it is not surprising that Linux distributors do not warrant the legal integrity of the Linux code provided to customers. Therefore legal liability that may arise from the Linux developments process may also rest with the end user.

We believe that Linux infringes on our UNIX intellectual property and other rights. We intend to aggressively protect and enforce these rights. Consistent with this effort, on March 7, we initiated legal action against IBM for alleged unfair competition and breach of contract with respect to our UNIX rights. This case is pending in Utah Federal District Court. As you are aware, this case has been widely reported and commented upon in the press. If you would like additional information, a copy of the complaint and response may be viewed at our web site at

For the reasons explained above, we have also announced the suspension of our own Linux-related activities until the issues surrounding Linux intellectual property and the attendant risks are better understood and properly resolved.

Similar to analogous efforts underway in the music industry, we are prepared to take all actions necessary to stop the ongoing violation of our intellectual property or other rights.

SCO's actions may prove unpopular with those who wish to advance or otherwise benefit from Linux as a free software system for use in enterprise applications. However, our property and contract rights are important and valuable: not only to us, but to every individual and every company whose livelihood depends on the continued viability of intellectual and intangible property rights in a digital age.

Yours truly,


By: Darl McBride
President and CEO

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