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Warner Bros. Likes What SCO is Selling
Friday, September 05 2003 @ 11:23 PM EDT

It's a tad hard to know what is really going on in the license business in SCOLand. First they will be sending out invoices. Then they wouldn't dream of it. Then they actually are sending them. Then they haven't, but they will. Then they will soon. Then they will soon. Then they will soon. Then they will in a few weeks. Or was it months? I'm confused.

The changeable story doesn't stop the stock from rising, but it is making people start to talk, even out loud. For example, it appears SCO has the honor to have at least one honest employee, the unfortunate Kieran O"Shaughnessy, who had the unhappy task of representing SCO as a speaker at the recent UNIX conference in Australia, and having to sit there and watch Greg Lehey and Con Zymaris present all the evidence against there being any infringing code in UNIX.

Now, ZDNet Australia says he is "seeking clarification" from SCO headquarters as to exactly what the company is or isn't planning for Australia and New Zealand as far as invoicing commercial users there is concerned. Well, join the crowd, Mr. O'Shaughnessy. We would all like some clarification from SCO. Here's what his puzzlement is based on:

"O'Shaughnessy told ZDNet Australia that he was still to hear back from U.S. spokesperson Blake Stowell, who told ZDNet Australia parent company CNET earlier this week the company planned to start sending out invoices to commercial Linux users 'probably sometime this month' as part of its strategy to impose Unix license fees for Linux use. . . .

"However, O'Shaughnessy suggested the report of an invoicing program 'did not ring true,' saying it contradicted strategy discussions he had had with his counterparts in the U.S. just two weeks ago. The company had, he said, no plans to distribute invoices to commercial -- or non-commercial -- Linux users in Australia."

Mr. O'Shaunessy appears to believe that the reporter got it wrong. There is at least one other possibility he may not yet be ready to acknowledge.

Meanwhile, right in the SCO bull's eye, in the US, Linux users are reportedly saying en masse they will just ignore any invoices received, despite SCO's threats to follow up the invoices with legal action:

"'I find it hard to believe that small companies will even bother to respond, and SCO does not have the resources to go after them in a sensible way,' James Youngman, treasurer of the UK Unix User Group, told .

"'It is likely that SCO will collect money from big companies, but they will pay more out of caution than any conviction that SCO is right.'

"But Mike Davis, a senior researcher at analyst Butler Group, believes that even larger companies will keep the corporate chequebook safely in the company secretary's drawer for the time being.

"'I think that companies will take the invoice and put it on a shelf or deposit it with their lawyers and tell them to wait until the IBM case is settled,' he said. 'The IBM case has to take precedence [over any case against users brought by SCO]. What would a company director be doing paying an invoice before a court case is settled?'"

Go after them in a sensible way? I don't see how that can be arranged, considering no one seems to believe they have a legal right to do it in the first place. Things aren't working out so well in the license department, but not to worry. SCO has not run out of someday, maybe, could be threats. Now they are hinting they may be suing SGI soon, so look for their stock to start down the runway and get airborne again shortly, on news of that getting out. The stock market is so logical, don't you find?

Here's why reporter Stephen Shankland believes this is next on the SCO agenda:

"SCO on Friday declined to comment on future legal action, but Chris Sontag, the senior vice president in charge of SCO's effort to derive more revenue from its Unix intellectual property, has said two things that suggest SGI is a likely target.

"First, Sontag said in June that SCO is contemplating legal action against another major North American hardware maker besides IBM. Second, in an August presentation at which SCO detailed some of its complaints about Linux code, Sontag described SGI file system software called XFS in a list of 'examples of significant infringing derivative works' contributed to versions 2.4 or 2.5 of the heart, or kernel, of Linux."

Now, Shankland is a capable reporter, so he actually called SGI and asked them:

"SGI said its conversion of XFS into an open-source program is permitted. 'We believe our release of XFS as open source to Linux was consistent with our Unix contract with SCO,' SGI spokeswoman Marty Coleman said. She declined to comment on whether SGI is in discussions with SCO."

Of course, going by what SCO says may not be the best trajectory on to the reality highway. But you never know. I'd like to see that contract. Still, as the article points out, winning the IBM suit wouldn't mean winning against SGI. If they want money from SGI or the code ripped out, they do have to sue them in addition to IBM, which is a lot of money and effort for a little company that says MS or some other sugar daddy like Sun isn't paying their legal bills.

However, there is more than one way to get money. It seems SCO has some new customers rushing to sign up, not for Linux licenses, but as customers for their new UNIX web services:

"SCO has begun a Web-services initiative and recently won some major new software clients, including McDonald's, Johnson & Johnson, and Warner Bros. 'Those are Open Server or Unixware customers' SCO spokesperson Blake Stowell told NewsFactor. The company's stock is trading near its 52-week high."

Warner Bros.? Well, well. I wonder what they find so appealing about SCO? Something tells me it can't be the software. Don't they do movies and, um, music? As in the RIAA? Perhaps they see an ally in SCO's declared noble cause of establishing if IP will have value in the internet age, as McBride put it?

Well, if birds of a feather are going to flock together like this, remind me not to go to their movies or buy their music. Oh, I forgot. I already do that.

Having some well-heeled birds on your side can pay for some more lawyers, and heaven only knows, SCO seems to need better legal advice. Still, the music business doesn't seem to be doing all that well itself these days. They think it's because of online piracy. It's not. It's because of people like me, who some time ago decided they would never buy any of their products again to time indefinite, even forever, because we hate their behavior. I don't care what kind of online service the RIAA members come up with, I am not a potential customer.

Bullying your customers isn't a viable business model, because we have free will. And it's our money you want and need to sustain you. We can live without your software, your music, and your movies too, and if we hate you enough, we will. SCO might be well-advised to start having some deep thoughts on that very subject, as even some analysts are beginning to warn them.

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