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Eyewitness Account of Blepp's Speech in Germany
Saturday, June 19 2004 @ 07:04 AM EDT

An eyewitness has emerged and he reports on the Blepp speech at the German university. He gave us permission to translate his account, and Mathias was kind enough to do so. The German account is here.

Someone needs to send Mr. Blepp the memo that mum's the new word at SCO. He spills the beans that SCO at the beginning just wanted IBM to pay them some millions for "copyright infringement", and they are puzzled why that didn't happen. Naturally, being such a methodical person, my memory immediately remembered SCO is currently telling Judge Kimball that the Tenth Counterclaim should be dismissed or stayed because SCO hadn't charged IBM with any copyright infringement except for post-termination of the AIX license, which tells my logical brain that SCO must not think IBM is guilty of copyright infringement prior to that point, or that they can't prove it:

"The only copyright claim SCO has asserted against IBM is primarily for IBM's continuing use of AIX and Dynix after SCO terminated IBM's UNIX licenses. See Second Amended Complaint, Count V. The Second Amended Complaint, however, does not contain a claim against IBM for copyright infringement arising out of its use, reproduction or improvement of Linux."

When SCO first wanted their millions from IBM, then, were they just shaking the tree and hoping something would fall in their pocket? SCO doesn't look so good if the answer is Yes. If the answer to that is No, there really were copyright violations worthy of a payment of that magnitude, why *haven't* they so charged IBM? Is Blepp admitting that they brought a nuisance lawsuit?

So maybe IBM didn't pay because they are not guilty? You think?

Blepp also says SCO would still like IBM to buy them. Hahahahaha.

And if they win the lawsuit, "all" they want is $2-$20 per Linux server. They can't figure out what to do about free distros like Debian if they win, though. 'Tis a puzzlement.

That, of course, also tells you that should such a crazy thing happen, there is an obvious and simple workaround. You'd think they could see the truly hopeless situation in which they find themselves.

A second eyewitness chimed in, saying that Blepp said that open source is destroying the market for proprietary software. He demonstrated several methods of taking an idea and completely rewriting it, so as to steal the idea. Remember Chris Sontag talking about obfuscated code in May of 2003 and Chris de Bona pointing out that in any large code base doing essentially the same task you will naturally find similar code, even if the programmers never saw each other's code?

Challenged privately after the talk, Blepp admitted the code he showed might be BSD code ("Let's not talk about single lines of code", he reportedly said, to which the only conceivable response must be, "No, let's" -- for sure in court, it will happen) and he says there are only 4 people at SCO working on the legal case. There are, he said, 250 people at SCO and that includes 40 to 50 Caldera/Linux people.

I think they must have been given a lobotomy, though, or they are kept in a dungeon, or they'd remember binutils isn't in the kernel, and that you don't sign a contract to indicate your distribution is under the GPL and they'd let their leaders know. Believe it or not, that is what the eyewitness says Blepp used as SCO's defense. They never signed a contract. That is so easy to answer. In fact, I did, over a year ago.

Can it be the whole world had to go through this horrible experience just because the new management at SCO didn't do their research and so they don't know that distribution is what makes the GPL kick in? It says so right in the license. There is no written contract. You manifest your distro is under the GPL by distribution with the GPL notice, which they did. If that is what they are relying upon, they are in for a real shock. I don't excuse them on the basis of "ignorance", though. The old management team, the Caldera team, knew better, so all they had to do was ask. For that matter, they could ask the 40 to 50 Caldera people who Blepp says are still there. Somebody must have a key to the dungeon. Or they could read. They could even find out what happens when there is an inadvertent release under the GPL. I've explained that too. They just don't pay attention.

He was asked: "If IBM is integrating a driver, let's say for a filesystem in AIX, which, let's say it was released under GPL for Linux, does the SCO-IBM contract apply here, in a sense that the SysV-License for this driver is extended and has to be removed out of Linux?" His answer was, Yes, the driver is under the AIX license, because it is "part of AIX". Many left the room, this second eyewitness reports, before the evening was finished.

The first eyewitness then responded. He gives some details about the Munich decision to go Linux, and then he reveals that when SCO accused IBM of stealing code, the community felt affronted and fought back, and no one at SCO had assumed that IBM would get so much support. They were surprised it became SCO against the world.

Here is the translation of the first eyewitness account. Clearly, this is a talk we want to see when the video is ready, to verify the details.


sequence of events:

4:15pm begin, Blepp gives his lecture
7:00pm end of lecture, drink&discussion
8:00pm end of event

The lecture was very interesting.

In the beginning, Gregory Blepp introduced himself. He first worked for CA, then for SuSE, touched United Linux and went to SCO afterwards. He is in a consulting position there. Additionally, he is at the "Verband der Software Industrie Deutschland" (association of the software industry of Germany).

The first part was about the advantages of open source and he stressed that he is not against open source.

The second part was about the fine print in copyright law. He showed several methods how to copy a program (copy->paste, copy->paste->rewrite, just taking the idea and completely rewriting and so on).

The third part was about the legal battle SCO vs. IBM. He presented parts of the disputed source code (of course only a part where theft of code is assumed - nothing is proven yet). He mentioned the court decision from the County Court in Bremen, that SCO is forbidden to claim that Linux is part of the SCO code. He said "If I had said this, I would have always added 'if this is the case'". So he drew himself out of the affair in a nicely manner. He said that it's not so much about the code itself, this is irrelevant now, because the code is now inside the kernel. It's - according to SCO- only about a breach of contract by IBM, which copied the lines of code to Linux. He just mentioned AT&T and Novell but only for a short time as this would have been too much.

He also mentioned the question if open source software and proprietary software can coexist. Answer: yes because SCO is selling UnixWare along with Samba, Mozilla and so on. SCO is just annoyed by the GPL because it is making commercial innovation impossible.

The speech was quite informal and offered several occasions to laughter.

In the discussion afterwards he talked about the inside of SCO. There are only 4 people working at SCO on this case. There are 250 people working at SCO in total, including 40-50 Caldera-Linux people.

In an early phase, SCO wanted only a few millions from IBM for the "copyright violation" but they did not agree on that. It's unknown why they did not agree to that.

Pesonally, this outcome of the case is almost irrelevant to him since SCO won't continue with UNIX (The company name/reputation is ruined, money was dumped in the case). Nowadays, the court cases are the real business of SCO. If SCO wins, they will introduce a Linux-license, (ca. 2-20$ per server). There is no solution to free distributions like Debian - no solution yet.

They still hope to be bought by IBM - all problems would be solved.

The audience was mostly students (including women!), at least a third were computer scientist and 80% of them Linux people. There were 2 or 3 people who approached Blepp with a hard voice but apart from that the discussion was very interesting and calm.

The invitation by the University of Jena was made because someone is writing his thesis about copyright and he met Blepp at the Verband der Software Industry.

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