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UnitedLinux Is No More & SCO Says Look for Legislation on Open Source
Friday, January 23 2004 @ 04:07 PM EST

If you listened to Novell's press conference, and you still can here by clicking on the appropriate link, you noticed that SuSE announced that because SCO would not withdraw from UnitedLinux, SuSE was itself withdrawing, because it sees no value in the relationship. SuSE was doing most of the engineering, so that, as Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols points out, is the end of UnitedLinux:

"The death announcement came in passing during a Novell press conference, when Richard Seibt, former SuSE Linux CEO and now president of SuSE, said SuSE had stopped being a member months ago, before Novell purchased SuSE. 'There is no value in this relationship,' he said. 'SuSE, however, will work separately with UnitedLinux members Turbolinux and Conectiva.'

"SuSE made this move because SCO, even as it attacked Linux on several fronts, remained a member of UnitedLinux. This made it impossible, Seibt said, for UnitedLinux to continue its mission of providing a single enterprise server distribution of Linux."
So, let me get this straight. SCO tells Congress that Linux is bad for the economy and a security risk, but they wish to remain a member of UnitedLinux? There goes my hypocrisy meter again. Yet Robert McMillan is reporting that Stowell says there will be legislation regarding open source software soon:

"With dozens of countries considering regulating the use of open-source, SCO believes it's 'only a matter of time before others in our country would put legislation on the table around open-source software,' said Stowell."

What dozens of countries? The only legislation I am aware of is legislation proposing that governments use only open source software. Maybe SCO and its proprietary cronies would like the reverse in the US: a law requiring only proprietary software be used by the government, that they would like to ask the government for laws to protect them from Linux competition. If their wish were granted, there goes the DOD's budget. Not to mention security risks up to their eyeballs. It's beginning to look like this is all part of a predetermined strategy, scripted from the beginning, but that perhaps they are speeding it up now that SCO's case is looking worse and worse. It also begins to look like the entire SCO legal farce was set up to justify this push by SCO and presumably Microsoft and perhaps other proprietary vendors to get the government to protect them from competition they can't beat fair and square in the marketplace.

And may I ask one question? Wasn't Deutsche Bank's Brian Skiba's rationale for setting a $45 target for SCO based on SCO's potential income from licensing Linux? If Linux were outlawed, may I inquire what happens to that potential income?

Meanwhile, Newsforge reports that Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology Phil Bond today said at Linux World that the Bush Administration will remain neutral between open source and proprietary software vendors. However, there is this ominous detail:

"'We particularly welcome these comments from the Administration's top Technology official because some others in the Administration have occasionally taken positions antithetical to open source methodology,' OSAIA President Ed Black said."

Information Week has a bit more, though, on the roundtable discussion on something else Bond and others had to say:

"Not all members of the roundtable, which included representatives from IBM, the Open Source Development Lab, and the United Nations, were convinced that the United States or any other government would or could resist getting involved in reshaping the software market. Government's role as the largest consumer of IT ensures that government agencies will at least want to be involved in the formation and enforcement of standards, said Dimo Calovski, economic affairs officer for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, a 40-year-old organization formed to help developing economies play a larger role in the world economy. 'Government policy on technology issues is a fact of life,' he said.

"Questions raised about the legality of code contributed to Linux over the years also evoked diverse reactions from roundtable participants. Some said intellectual-property lawsuits and accusations are distracting people from open-source technology's greatest value--the worldwide collaboration of innovators and problem solvers, Calovski said. 'From a policy point of view, I would want to devote my resources to something other than enforcement of intellectual property. That money is better spent elsewhere.'

"Bond was less dismissive of the intellectual property challenges. 'Countries are free to choose open source, but we're concerned about the enforcement of intellectual property,' he said. 'Proprietary property needs to be protected, and that will require that governments take this seriously.'"

You might enjoy this ComputerWorld article, "Defying Gravity". The press is finally getting it. Notice how SCO is described in this story:

"The most powerful software company in the world would love to kill it off. The most ridiculous software company in the world can't stop suing over it. Yet Linux marches triumphantly onward . . ."

Remember the old days, when you couldn't find anything negative about SCO's law suit in the mainstream press? Now SCO is described as "the most ridiculous software company in the world," and it wasn't Groklaw that wrote it. Sadly, that doesn't mean the press is yet comprehending this new phase of SCO's assault. InternetNews tries to grasp what the "GPL is unconstitutional" claim is all about in an article asserting that SCO's lawsuit against IBM is a test of the GPL v. copyright law, but clearly has some difficulty. No doubt that is because it isn't a test of the GPL v. copyright law. To their credit, they did ask the principal lawyer for the GPL, Eben Moglen, to respond:

"But Moglen asserts that the SCO dispute isn't really about copyrights anyway. 'This is not a copyright lawsuit yet. Copyright claim, number one, has yet to be filed by SCO against anybody,' he said. 'The only copyright claim made so far is IBM's counter claim against SCO.'. . .

"'They can say the GPL is invalid, but it's not legally relevant,' Moglen told internetnews.com. 'In order for them not to lose the lawsuit they have to have a license and the license they claim to have is GPL.'

Moglen said he is confident that the GPL version 2 is actually performing as the Free Software Foundation originally intended it. 'The GPL is doing the job it's supposed to do by defending freedom by creating legal difficulties for people who attack freedom,' he said.

"'So, no it's not actually testing the GPL, though everyone is behaving as though it is. Though, if this is a test of the GPL it is a test that the GPL will pass.'"

Meanwhile, Microsoft has worked out a deal with the UN:

"Microsoft, U.N. to fight poverty

"Microsoft Corp. and the United Nations will work together to bring computer technology and literacy to developing countries, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said today.

"Microsoft pledged software, computer training and cash to establish computer centers in poor communities, starting with pilot projects in Egypt, Mozambique and Morocco.

"The initiative will draw from a $1 billion Microsoft Unlimited Potential fund, which the U.S. software giant launched last year.

"The company has already donated nearly $50 million to 45 countries, and Gates said he hoped to 'ramp it up' to $200 million a year through the new partnership with the U.N. Development Program.

"At a news conference at the World Economic Forum, Gates said the computer centers won't be restricted to using Microsoft products."

With all the news today, soon we might be better off in Morocco, as far as having software choices, then. Aside from SCO's legislative push, MS just registered new XML-related patents in New Zealand and the EU, according to News.com:

"Microsoft has applied for patents that could prevent competing applications from processing documents created with the latest version of the software giant's Office program.

"The company filed patent applications in New Zealand and the European Union that cover word processing documents stored in the XML (Extensible Markup Language) format. The proposed patent would cover methods for an application other than the original word processor to access data in the document. The U.S. Patent Office had no record of a similar application.

"The proposed patents apparently seek to protect methods other applications could use to interpret the XML dialect, or schema, Office uses to describe and organize information in documents. Microsoft recently agreed to publish those schemas and is looking at opening other chunks of Office code. Despite those moves toward openness, the patents could create a barrier to competing software, said Rob Helm, an analyst for research firm Directions on Microsoft.

"'This is a direct challenge to software vendors who want to interoperate with Word through XML,' he said. 'For example, if Corel wanted to improve WordPerfect's support of Word by adopting its XML format...for import/export, they'd probably have to license this patent.'"

The patents likely wouldn't immediately affect the open-source software package OpenOffice, which uses different XML techniques to describe a document, Helm said. But they could prevent future versions of OpenOffice and StarOffice, its proprietary sibling, from working with Microsoft's XML format."

If the proprietary folks keep up the patent nonsense, pretty soon nobody will be able to do anything in software without crossing the big guys' palms with silver, which is a very fine reason to switch to Linux this exact minute, if you ask me, because the more they lock things down, the less innovation you will see from them. It just is a fact of life that the higher the bar to entry, the less talent there is available, which is probably why proprietary software thinks it can only survive by outlawing the Linux competition.

SCO didn't have its hearing today, but Microsoft did and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer tells us what happened:

"Prodded by a federal judge, Microsoft agreed Friday to make portions of its tightly held Windows software code more widely available in an attempt to inject choice and competition into a market it once monopolized.

"The concession came during a brief hearing before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to evaluate the progress Microsoft is making to comply with the landmark 2002 settlement that aimed to repair the damage to the software market caused by Microsoft's behavior. . . .Another hearing to evaluate Microsoft's progress and compliance is scheduled for April 21."


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