Linux war of words escalates

Open-source software leaders Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens fire back at SCO, disputing the company's latest swipe at Linux and the open-source development method.

David Becker Staff Writer, CNET News.com
David Becker
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David Becker
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Open-source software leaders Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens fired back at the SCO Group, disputing the company's latest swipe at Linux and the open-source development method.

In an open letter posted late Tuesday on Raymond's Web site, the author and developer reacted pointedly to recent claims by SCO CEO Darl McBride, particularly allegations that Raymond concealed the identity of hackers responsible for recent denial-of-service (DoS) attacks against SCO.

Raymond, president of the Open Source Initiative advocacy group, said he has never known the identity of those responsible for the DoS attacks and had to issue a public appeal for them to stop.

"Your implication that the attacks are a continuing threat and that the president of the Open Source Initiative is continuing to shield their perpetrator is...both false and slanderous," the letter said. "In fact, leaders of the open-source community have acted responsibly and swiftly to end the DDoS attacks--just as we continue to act swiftly to address IP-contamination issues when they are aired in a clear and responsible manner."

SCO rattled the technology world early this year by filing a $3 billion lawsuit against IBM, claiming that the computing giant illegally incorporated into its Linux software source code from the Unix operating system that SCO controls. SCO further riled the Linux community by sending letters to 1,500 information technology managers, warning them that any use of Linux could expose them to intellectual property suits. SCO tried to capitalize on its claims when it unveiled a licensing plan for businesses that wish to continue using Linux with SCO's blessing.

Open-source software supporters have fired back with strident critiques of SCO's claims and a few nonverbal attacks, such as the DoS hits on SCO.

McBride discussed the attacks in an open letter to the open-source community posted earlier this week on SCO's Web site. He also used the letter to make wide-ranging critiques of the open-source development process, particularly the process for scrutinizing code accepted into the Linux kernel to ensure it is free of intellectual property violations.

Raymond and Perens, director of Software in the Public Interest, an open-source development organization, scoffed at those arguments.

"We in the open-source community are accountable," according to their letter. "Our source code is public, exposed to scrutiny by anyone who wishes to contest its ownership. Can SCO or any other closed-source vendor say the same?"

Raymond and Perens demanded that SCO either reveal all allegedly infringing code or cease its public attacks on Linux.

"If you wish to make a respectable case for contamination, show us the code," according to the letter. "Disclose the overlaps. Specify file by file and line by line which code you believe to be infringing and on what grounds. We will swiftly meet our responsibilities under law, either removing the allegedly infringing code or establishing that it entered Linux by routes which foreclose proprietary claims."