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Sun Shows Their True Colors and Attorney Denise Howell on SCO
Tuesday, April 27 2004 @ 10:07 AM EDT

If you are still in doubt as to Sun's plans for the future, particularly its relationship with Open Source and the GPL, you will find an eWeek interview with Jonathan Schwartz helpful. Here's part of what he said:

"Should we license technology from Microsoft, it would clearly advance the interests, for example, of the Java Desktop System, and if that's running on Linux, then that obviously helps the underlying Linux community as well as the overall growth and viability of open-source technology.

"Just remember, ....RealPlayer's not open-source, but its availability certainly enhances the value of our Java Desktop System.

"There is work done in the open-source community to advance StarOffice, but certainly Sun stands behind and indemnifies StarOffice. To the extent that we license protocols from Microsoft, we would be including them in StarOffice-and not obviously distributing them free of charge-just as we do today with RealPlayer.

"There is nothing that precludes us from taking the protocols we license from Microsoft and incorporating them into our products. Now, where those products run is up to Sun. So, if we take a license from Microsoft, there's nothing that precludes us from incorporating that technology into our Java Desktop System. "

So there you have it. It looks like Sun is indeed going to re-run Caldera, right down to creating a Linux distro (Java Desktop) with lots of proprietary addons in an attempt to enforce per-seat/per-employee licensing. Deja vu all over again. And they hope we will all be foolish enough to not care about the GPL and thus forsake Red Hat and SuSE, etc. Dream on, Sun, dream on. The real question is, when that fails, then what will Sun do?

Schwartz attacks Red Hat:

"It's a naive analysis of the open-source community that says it's all about forking over source code. It's not—it's about building community, about making investments in marketing, in developing technologies that run on, with and through the open-source community. We have a very long history of working with the open-source community.

"Despite some of our peers in the industry who hire people with titles like evangelist, our folks have titles like developer and architect, and they go work with the open-source community to build technologies and solutions that solve customers' problems.

"I would point back to the Java Desktop System as evidence of the work we've done with the GNOME community, the Mozilla community and the Linux community to really bring products to market that don't just add more lumps of source code into the source tree but deliver value to customers so that they want to inject money into an ecosystem and make it self-sustaining and profitable."

Sick to your stomach yet? He doesn't mind Novell, he says on page two, because he and Microsoft share a common view, and he thinks competition is a good thing:

"Novell's participation in the market is a good thing, because it validates the market as creating an opportunity for more than simply one company. So, I welcome the competition. To us, it's really emblematic of the nature of the relationship we have with Microsoft, which is a deeply held belief that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that interoperability between Sun and Microsoft grows the overall market for both of our products rather than advantages one company versus another."

Microsoft? That Microsoft? The one twice found guilty of antitrust violations? That Microsoft believes that a rising tide lifts all boats? Is Sun in for a shock someday.

He is totally into DRM, and authentication, and autoupdate, and it's all about market share. Here is a hint as to how to block them, should you care to:

"So, with interoperability and a focus on ease of use, we're trying to use both StarOffice as well as Java Studio Creator to create a broader market opportunity and add interoperability to that mix. It's about growing the largest market possible, trying to help build the biggest tent atop all the developers in the world rather than forcing people to go make choices that may preclude their opportunities. . . .So, I am very convinced, with Steve, that he who has the most customers—and I would just add developers into that—is ultimately going to be the long-term winner. "

They don't have the biggest tent if developers stay away. And if you are in the mood to throw up, here's a couple of sentences that just might do it:

"We're going back to pub-sub, and we're moving away from a concept of 'I'm going to go to a Web site and pick up content.' The pull model of computing—the days are numbered. . . . At the end of the day, that's great [Sun's competition with Microsoft] for customers. The fact that we're committed to interoperability means either choice is a safe choice. We're very bullish on the future of the network and very bullish on the future of intellectual property in open source as well as in open standards to continue to drive that opportunity."

Excuse me? The "future of intellectual property in open source"? We certainly can't complain that they were confusing or schizo here. It's plain as day. They are going after Red Hat. They do not support the GPL. They will push open standards as being what you really want, not open source. They think that we won't care, as long as it's easy and fun. They intend to be the substitute for free/open source software. Here you go: Brand X Linux. And they intend to destroy the Internet. If you think that sounds wonderful, stop and consider that if they get their way, there would never be a Groklaw. Microsoft never did get the Internet. They think all we want to do is buy stuff. So, that's their plan, Stan.

I had a chance to take a look at Sun's Java Desktop evaluation CD, thanks to a friend who used to be a Java developer, until he got the CD and noticed the same thing I noticed when I tried it. First, there isn't any sign on the cover that there is anything GPL inside, even though there is plenty. It does mention Linux and the GPL VERY briefly in the command window during bootup, but it is so brief, unless you were paying very close attention, you could easily miss it. There is also a rather draconian EULA as you boot into the system that mentions absolutely nothing about the GPL anywhere and expressly forbids you from making copies of the CD. There is a brief mention of a third-party licenses directory in the EULA text. You really could get the CD and run it without every knowing it had anything GNU/Linuxy in it or that the GPL provides you with guaranteed freedoms that Sun would like you not to know you have. My friend tells me he will no longer do any Java development. He was about to recommend to his boss that they do some Java Desktops, but now he intends to recommend only a distro that acknowledges its roots.

Are you convinced yet, all you folks who send me email about how Sun really is supportive of the Open Source community? Not yet? Then how about this article in eWeek, where Schwartz calls Red Hat a proprietary Linux? He says they forked and now CIOs are noticing that "Red Hat has pretty much forked the distribution" so now they realize "open source does not equal open standards. Open standards, which Sun has always supported, are better. Proprietary open source [like RHEL] can come back and bite you."

Naturally, Red Hat responds, and so does Linus and neither agrees with Sun:

"Informed of the comments, Red Hat spokesman Leigh Day offered that 'Red Hat Enterprise Linux is licensed under the GPL, and we're totally open source.'

'"[Red Hat is] not proprietary,' Day continued. 'We are fully committed to open source and our code reflects that. Red Hat has no proprietary software built in our distribution. Our core strategy is built on open source and we will not deviate from that strategy.' . . .

"In addition, Linus Torvalds, Linux's founder, considers Red Hat Linux to be Linux. 'Sure, RH definitely has their own vendor kernel, but it's not proprietary, and a number of the top Linux kernel contributors are Red Hat employees,' Torvalds said."

Time to think about OpenOffice and Sun pulling a SCO someday, gang. Remember that patent [scroll down] they put into their Linux distro, Mad Hatter? Time to think. They are thinking, but in old-fashioned ways, about mo' money, and they will fail there too, of course. They have made their choice and opted for The Way Things Used To Be. It's a new world, and Sun is not in it.

Denise Howell Begins SCO Coverage

Denise Howell is an intellectual property and appellate attorney, who also has a popular personal blog, called Bag and Baggage, which has begun to cover the SCO story, I'm happy to tell you. The first article is entitled, "SCO Many Lawsuits, SCO Little Time." It also was contributed to a weekly newsletter called IP Memes, which is described by parent Techno Lawyer like this:

"This weekly newsletter consists of technology-related intellectual property "memes" -- IP issues that have just begun to surface and may soon become important legal issues. IP Memes enables corporate counsel, intellectual property lawyers, and interested others to learn about and react to new developments in intellectual property law."

She tells me that this first installment is an overview for IP Memes readers, who may not be as knowledgeable about the case as Groklaw's readers, but she hopes to continue the coverage with some analysis in the future, so you might want to take a look. I have long enjoyed reading what she writes. Naturally, now that she has favorably mentioned Groklaw (she says we inspired her to cover SCO), I like her all the more. She links to our first ABI article, among other things, the one that Frank Sorensen took the lead on, and she also cites a case, Feist, which you might find interesting to read. That case held that mere compilations of facts are not copyrightable.

Want to clear your palate from the Sun story and have a laugh? Here's a quote from a BayStar spokesman that is very, very, very encouraging: "We believe that when we invested, there was a strong and valuable asset in the intellectual-property case" against IBM, says the spokesman. "We still believe that SCO has the chance to prevail."

Don't you love it? They thought it was a stong case, and now they think maybe, just maybe, SCO might still have a chance.


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