In a 29 April 2003 e-mail to us from SCO-Caldera's Blake Stowell there is a statement regarding Linux code policing:
We had discussed these issues with kernel.org's Richard Gooch and GNU's Richard Stallman back in March. More recently we discussed these issues with Conectiva's Gordon Ho, Mandrake's Gaël Duval, and SuSE's Joeseph Eckert. The bottom line is that SCO is wrong (again). The Linux community does have clean-code safeguards in place.
Of course there is no army of Code Police with fixed-bayonets standing guard at every portal to every open source development project -- nor does there need to be. The Linux community reasonably does guard against unlicensed, proprietary code seeping into the official Linux kernel, GNU/Linux operating system, and Linux distributions.
In essence, SCO-Caldera is questioning and challenging Linux community code policing on the basis of SCO's naked allegations that there is SCO-owned code in what SCO-Caldera loosely refers to as Linux. This appears to be just another battlefront and attack in SCO-Caldera's war on Linux. And more SCO smoke to boot.
Perhaps even more out-of-line is the appearance that SCO-Caldera is trying to use the threat of copyright infringement lawsuits to dictate Linux kernel, GNU/Linux operating system, and Linux distribution maintenance and development practices and procedures.
One thing that makes all this even more sick is that at one time the Caldera part of SCO-Caldera was a leading Linux distribution provider (LDP). Caldera was a desktop Linux pioneer. It was a member of the Linux community. Additionally, Caldera had as much opportunity to participate in formulating Linux kernel, GNU/Linux operating system, and Linux distribution development and maintenance procedures and policies as any person, organization, or company.
Now as SCO-Caldera, it seeks to have such influence by force and threat of lawsuit. That is not a very pretty picture. Nor is it a nice thing to do either.
On 12 May 03, SCO-Caldera announced that it is suspending distribution of the GNU/Linux operating system. In effect, SCO-Caldera is no longer a Linux company -- nor is it now a member of the Linux community.
Stowell raises essentially two issues in his 29 April e-mail to us:
(1) whose responsibility is it to police the Linux kernel, GNU/Linux operating system, and Linux distribution code to insure that unlicensed SCO-owned Unix code does not get into the Linux kernel, GNU/Linux operating system, and Linux distribution code and
If you would like to skip ahead to the meat of these issues go to SCO's Rubber Hammer -- Dictating to the Linux Community.
Background and Perspective
To put today's discussion in perspective let's quickly review the part of our 28 April article that is the subject of Stowell's 29 April e-mail to us.
Our 21 May article, Is SCO Trying to Renege on Clearing Linux Kernel ?, addressed some issues raised by the 29 April e-mail from SCO's Blake Stowell. In that e-mail, he requested a correction to our 28 April article SCO-Caldera v IBM: SCO Clears Linux Kernel but Implicates Red Hat and SuSE.
In his request for a correction, Stowell raised issues essentially regarding, (a) is there unlicensed SCO-owned Unix code in the official, kernel.org, Linux kernel and (b) code policing.
The 28 April story looked into SCO-Caldera's vague and naked claims that there is SCO-owned code in Linux. There, SCO's Chris Sontag said that SCO-Caldera had not found any SCO-owned code in the kernel.org Linux kernel.
On 29 April, the day after the article was published, we received an e-mail from SCO's Blake Stowell asking us to make a correction in the story as to Sontag's statement clearing the kernel.org Linux kernel of containing any SCO-owned code.
However, there was nothing to correct. We printed what Sontag had said:
When discussing accusations of unlicensed, proprietary code in Linux, it is very important to distinguish between the official Linux kernel, other Linux kernels, the GNU/Linux operating system, Linux distributions, and so forth. The official Linux kernel that Linus Torvalds and others developed and continue to develop is maintained by kernel.org.
However, anyone or any organization may adapt and patch that kernel for their own use, such as developing a Linux-based operating system or a Linux distribution. For more information about that please see the Mechanisms of Tainting Linux Distribution Code section in our article SCO Clears Linux Kernel but Implicates Red Hat and SuSE.
Here is that with which Blake Stowell wanted us to replace Sontag's verbatim statement -- after it had been published.
Although that is not a correction, it is a new statement, an interesting change in what Sontag says is the way things are, and it raises additional issues and confusions. That makes Sontag's new statement worth a follow-up story -- but not a correction. So, we sent an e-mail to Blake Stowell letting Blake know that we would not make a correction to the SCO Clears Linux Kernel story -- because there was nothing to correct, but that we would run a follow-up story.
Sontag's new statement raised some additional issues and questions. Thus, we also asked Blake some questions about this new Sontag statement. To date neither Blake Stowell nor anyone else at SCO-Caldera has answered these questions directly. The questions we asked, but were not answered, are appended at the end of this article for your reading pleasure.
In asking Stowell these questions one of our concerns was that someone at SCO suddenly realized that by admitting there is no SCO-owned code in the kernel.org code, SCO had lost much of the vague, nebulous, and somewhat rubbery intellectual property (IP) hammer it is trying to hold over the entire Linux community. It also appeared to us that this new statement from Sontag was designed to restore the uncertainty and vagueness about SCO's unsupported copyright claims -- so that SCO-Caldera might regain some, if not all, of that rubbery IP hammer that SCO is trying to hold over the entire Linux community -- which had been diminished by Sontag's earlier statement clearing the kernel.org Linux kernel of SCO-owned code.
Please see the first two parts of our series about SCO-Caldera's IP claims plus its intentions to enforce and license its intellectual property rights.
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