SCO Group: Its future is all used up

Far too slowly, software company is slipping away

More bad news in court for The SCO Group, which is good news for the industry, writes columnist Scott Bradner.

The SCO Group got bad news in court last week. Not an unusual event for this company, but I wish the need for such events would finally go away for good.

I've now been writing about SCO for five years -- how time does fly when you have someone to despise. In my first column about SCO's decision go into the lawsuit business rather than having to do all the hard work of making a product that someone might want to buy, I thought that someone would just buy the slime off. I was wrong -- I guess there is some truth to the punch line of the old joke that "there are just some things a lawyer won't do." I guess IBM's lawyers could not stomach the idea of rewarding such repulsive behavior.

Just to be clear, it is not inherently repulsive to sue if your intellectual property has been infringed on. There are perfectly legitimate cases where someone in business finds out that someone else is using technology that they have patents or copyrights on. Things get uglier when the group suing is not trying to do anything with the technology other than sue. But what SCO tried to do is indeed repulsive -- not the part about suing IBM for lots of money, but the part about attempting to wipe out open source software for a buck. Claiming that anyone using Linux was violating SCO's copyright and not telling anyone what the violations were so they could be corrected (in the end, SCO puked up a hairball of accusations that would not choke a mouse) -- that was repulsive.

The latest news on SCO was generally predictable from the last court decision that gave SCO the bad news (for them anyway) that the basic underpinning of its suit against IBM (and charge against Linux) was faulty: SCO did not happen to own the copyrights it was suing over. The same judge has now ruled that SCO owes Novell $2.5 million for some software licenses.

SCO is already in bankruptcy, but its leadership (if that's the right term) is still dreaming of somehow reaping big bucks though the court system (See Groklaw's detailed and careful coverage of this sordid tail for much more information.) Maybe it is those dreams of undeserved, and now unlikely, riches that keep them going, but I sure wish SCO would just finish fading away.

When I read Groklaw's report on the latest court decision I was reminded of a scene from the movie "A Touch of Evil." (If you have not seen it, this is perhaps the best film-noir crime movie, assuming you see the 1998 recut version.) Yes, the movie title is more than a bit appropriate for SCO, but the scene that came to mind is the one in which Orson Welles walks into a whorehouse and asks Marlene Dietrich to read his future:

Welles: Read my future for me.

Dietrich: You haven't got any.

Welles: Hmm? What do you mean?

Dietrich: Your future's all used up.

SCO's future is all used up, too. When will the company finally realize this and stop being a news topic?

Disclaimer: Considering Harvard's past, there is a lot of future in the university still, but the university has not commented on The SCO Group or the movie, so the above review and wish are mine.

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