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Transparent Linux safe from SCO

The biggest threat from SCO's suit against IBM is to users of Big Blue's AIX operating system, not Linux, whose license cannot be revoked just because SCO is doing poorly in the marketplace.

In response to the June 24, 2003, Perspectives column by Richard Wilder, "Open source's moment of truth":

Mr. Wilder takes the preposterous claims from SCO Group as a cautionary tale regarding open-source adoption. He's mistaken.

First, the biggest threat from the suit is to users of IBM's AIX operating system, not Linux. This could very well drive IBM and others to adopt Linux even more vigorously, as Linux doesn't require permission from another company. Its license cannot be revoked just because one company is doing so poorly in the marketplace that it has to lash out at competitors via legal channels: If you can't compete, you sue.

Open-source software--and Linux in particular--is the most transparent software development process in the world. No proprietary software is ever made publicly available, with each release fully tracked and all changes managed in a publicly accessible version control system. Exactly when a section of code was added--and who did so--will be quite clear with Linux. The same can't be said for AIX or SCO Group's code, so it will be up to them to prove that they owned the code, that it was licensed to IBM, and that IBM then divulged it.

There is very little to show that Linux is even under any real scrutiny based on the SCO Group's current claims. They do not seem to attack Linux at all; there are no intellectual property claims per se. It's more a breach of contract with IBM as it relates to AIX and the claim that IBM misappropriated trade secrets. While divulging a trade secret is a contractual issue, there's no real protection on trade secrets once they are leaked. Linux would not be required to remove code that had been protected as a trade secret once it is no longer a secret. SCO Group has a lot to prove. Shorting its stock may not be a bad investment. Open source is just fine.

David Wall
Kirkland, WA