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In many cases, the end of the year gives you time to step back and take stock of the last 12 months. This is when many of us take a hard look at what worked and what did not, complete performance reviews, and formulate plans for the coming year. For me, it is all of those things plus a time when I u...
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Linux.SYS-CON.com's Editor Responds to SCO CEO's Open Letter
Linux.SYS-CON.com's Editor Responds to SCO CEO's Open Letter

In his open letter to the open source community Darl McBride states, "it is clear that the Open Source community needs a business model that is sustainable if it is to grow beyond a part-time avocation into an enterprise-trusted development model."

I have news for you, Darl -- a new business model has already been invented. You're just not a part of it.

Whether using the Apache Web server, Linux, gcc, make, Apache Tomcat, PHP, or one of the many, many other open source packages, virtually every company today is heavily dependent upon open source. Virtually everyone.

The 'collaborative' process by which all these projects get created is based on a new business model. It's a business model defined by the *users* of the technology - not by vendors. Individuals in companies all around the world are simply working together to create the technologies collaboratively - and releasing them under open source licenses that ensure everyone can freely use and contribute to their enhancement.

Darl continues, "Rather than fight for the right for free software, it's far more valuable to design a new business model that enhances the stability and trustworthiness of the Open Source community in the eyes of enterprise customers."

Why he believes our efforts are "far more valuable" if incorporated into a "business model" is unimaginable. The immense economic impact of open source on the productivity of the American and the World economies is undeniable -- and accomplished without this "business model".

Open Source doesn't need to "design a new business model" - SCO does. Mr. McBride has simply not come to grips with the fact that his business model is dying. The open source community doesn't need his services or his intellectual property. We can innovate faster, work cheaper, achieve higher quality and impact productivity in this country (and throughout the world) much better than SCO -- by far.

Open Source is about being 'free' - as in 'freedom'. Open Source developers give away their work so that we will all be enriched - and so that they can get the benefit of the work that others have given away as well.

We don't need or want his help and we won't be working with him. SCO simply wants to control and own the ideas of the open source community and the fruits of our labors.

Open your eyes,  Darl McBride. The new business model that the open source community has already developed without your help is about to flatten you. This new business model is based on companies and individuals increasing productivity and reducing costs by collaborating on 'shared' IP that no one owns and is free.

The giant sucking sound you're hearing, Darl, is the sound of your customers all contributing little pieces to the open source picture - so they can get better value and get rid of you.

About Kevin Bedell
Kevin Bedell, one of the founding editors of Linux.SYS-CON.com, writes and speaks frequently on Linux and open source. He is the director of consulting and training for Black Duck Software.

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Reader Feedback: Page 1 of 3

Five years from now, will anyone care about this little flap?

Excellent reply. Open Source is the best "open business model" out there as it allows others to contribute based on their ability and receive benefit from the contibution of others. I agree that Open Source is powering the planet and we need to pull the carpet out from corporations like MS that get exceedingly rich by monopoloizing the industry. How much innovation has MS harmed by saying they are the only ones allowed to innovate on the Windows platform. Shame on MS! Regardless of SCO's claims, any issues can be readily adressed in the Open Source movement.

Good article. It is obvious that this is a last attempt for SCO be become profitable. Since sales are slowing, the company has turned to extortion. Microsoft also has a part in this with the financial backing (~1 million dollars) in a joint partnership.

Neither Microsoft or SCO will stop the strength and growth of Linux.

What I would like to know is whether there IS any SCO code in Linux that wasn't already in there in Caldera Linux distros? I doubt it.

Poor SCO. No (more) money for them.

I'm not a expert in law, but everytime I think about this issue I became to the same point:

SCO give the code to IBM. IBM put it into Linux. So, the problem is not with the Open Source model. SCO have nothing do deal with Open Source community, because Open Source community doesn't broke any law. Someone who has the code (IBM in this case) put it against SCO knowlodge (I don't see the code to beleive it own to SCO or not) in Open Source.
If SCO have anything to clame rights, they need to clame a contract issue against IBM, and only.

That is just the question that needs to be answered. I think we need to debate these issues and find a model where OpenSource contributors are themselves liable for code snippets they donate. This will require a greater amount of work for project managers, but will in general make it a bit safer for corporations to use OpenSource. What also suprises me is the closed minds many has to the fact that the OpenSource community also has its rotten apples. It is just a matter of time before someone gets exposed for contributing copyrighted code, and then we as community needs to already be passed this stage of denial. If not then we will really hurt the future of OpenSource.

Just look at all the teenage wannabee hackers that wants to impress by modding virus code and then re-distribute it, dont you all think they will also get into the OpenSource community and "donate" code they have ripped from some copyrighted source ? As long as there is wannabees seeking recognition, there will be incidents like that. The big question is, if we as community are ready to face the challenge it brings ?

When the shit sooner or later hits the fan, and we get a case like this, then we need to be able to show we already have prepared for this, and that the violator must carry his own responseability, and not the end user.

How can we pull together to find a solution?

OK, got me...

Yes i am very sure they didnt have mainframe access, especially since they are close friends, and the project itself was of such a character that it could not be developed on a Mainframe emulator, since that can not reproduce the specific mainframe itself. But that is not the issue here. It is the legal implications we might face. Personally i wish we all could drop IP laws and share code freely, but that is not how the world works, and companies also has a right to protect their investments in development.

I am sometimes surprised how a higly intelligent community can forget the obvious things when doing discussions like this, and when i presented this problem to a magazine editor, he stated that this was an angle he hadn't thought of. I think that is the general problem, we forget the legal things and focus solely on the idealistic motives, but now we have been shown we need to re-evaluate the GPL and OpenSource development model if it is to grow out of its infancy and become ready for the wide spread corporate use.

Let us all pull together and find a viable solution to the legal problems so we can avoid cases like the SCO case later. And the current OpenSource tactics "Dont ask and dont tell" around code contributed, will just get us all into trouble. Off course its easy to do this in a community where there is no liability, but when it comes to corporations they need to safeguard against lawsuits, and with OpenSource, the end user is also legally liable for copyright violations.

On September 15, Hawkie wrote:
>I am myself involved in openSource projects and as such i >also love to study what others do, and reads through their >code. And more than once i have found code snippets i can >clearly guess is borrowed from the employer of one of the >particpating programmers. One example is some code in a >project for clustering Linux, where i KNOW that none of >the programmers had access to their own mainframes, or >heavy duty servers, but several worked for companies that >had some, and that was involved in making similar >solutions. Imagine the future lawsuits here.

Hawkie, are you 1000% sure that they didn't have access to a personal mainframe? Never heard of HERCULES, an OPEN SOURCE mainframe emulator for PC's? Well, I think this is another piece of software worth being studied. I for myself do have a personal mainframe at home ;-)
Furthermore I don't believe that "inventing" a special solution is restrictable to a single human entity in distinct particular 3D-coordinates on this little planet. Historicians proved that for several "breakthrough" inventions in human history there was no single point of origin, but they occurred on different continents (is this far enough or has it to be planets?) at the same time, without people being able to communicate via Internet or even postal services or any other means. Sounds like the magic of "collaborative awareness of human mankind" diminishing time and space constraints...
Maybe it is time not to sue this any longer.

As i pointed out earlier the legal issues involving a company using OpenSource software, i still can not see anyone actually willing to address this issue. As i see it, this is the main issue to convince corporate users to use OpenSource. The liability issue is a major one, as the OpenSource end user is actually the liable party. Proprietary software is developed by a company that is a legal entity, and as such this one guarantees for the copyrights involved. In such cases the end user can not be sued by a party claiming copyright issues, only the distributor/manufacturer can be sued. So who will be willing to make a legal change to shield end users of OpenSource ? Well most certainly not any US government, because that would in reality be the same as opening up for re-use of any code found anywhere. So how can this issue be solved ? Well i know that lawyers will have filed day when OpenSource really enters the business market. They will hire fleets of people to look for cases in the source codes, and then get tons of revenue from legal proceedings as those using that software.

I can almost see the scenario where i as a systemspecialist recommends a OpenSource alternative for a customer, and eventually he gets sued for copyright violations, as well as beeing put in a position where he has to find another alternative for the software. That can be coslty for the customer as well as for me and my employer. So what do i recommend today ? Proprietary software off course.

I am myself involved in openSource projects and as such i also love to study what others do, and reads through their code. And more than once i have found code snippets i can clearly guess is borrowed from the employer of one of the particpating programmers. One example is some code in a project for clustering Linux, where i KNOW that none of the programmers had access to their own mainframes, or heavy duty servers, but several worked for companies that had some, and that was involved in making similar solutions. Imagine the future lawsuits here.

Well as i said, no use of OpenSource in corporate enviroments until the legal issues are solved.

If my clients asked me to sign a statement that i took on the legal responseability for OpenSource software i recommended i would not dare to sign it, not even if it was concerning the Linux kernell itself, because i can not say for sure where they got all their code from.

Would you sign such a statment ?

Having used Windows for a graet number of years and spending a fortune on so called upgrade to anothor and due to the fact that Microsoft is the so called " industry standard" I was vey interested when I discovered Linux a few years ago. The very idea of the open source commmunity appealed to me but at the time I found it very difficult to get a system up and running as I did not have the technical knowlwdge. But with some patient study and the advent of graphical installers and the numerous "live cd's" my knowlwde has grown. If you plump for Red Hat, Suse or Mandrake it is now, with a little knowledge as easy to install a linux system on a PC as it is tio install Windows. But the great aded advantage is you get all the neccessary software you need bundled with it. This is what scares the living daylights out of companies producing mainsteram application such as MS Office. I am sure that Microsoft will in the near future try to introduce a massivily overprice version of Linux just to hedge their bets. If SCO want to take on IBM et al are they going to take on Microsoft?
I noted a recent press article about the how the Japanese govermnt and two other asian goverments are looking to Linux as a way of cutting down the cost of implementing affordable computing are SCO going to take on various goverments around the world? To me SCO has looked around and has taken note of the initially slow but ever faster increasing move towards Linux more corporate users, goverment users, for instance Thailands collabaration with HP to sell cheap Linux based laptops. SCO have decided they want to be the new Microsoft of the Linux future it is our code and you will all have to pay to use it. The future is bright the future is Linux the future for us at SCO is mega dollars!!!

What amazes me in discussions concerning the Open Source business model is how few people appreciate exactly how small software companies are in comparison to the rest of the economy. By far the greater part of business is not involved in developing software products for sale, but in finding customised solutions to their internal business problems. Traditionally there have been only two routes; to buy proprietary solutions, or to develop in-house. Open Source, co-operative development provides an entirely new paradigm.

If one accepts that lifecycle costs (in terms of deployment, help desks etc.) are a function primarily of the complexity of an application and the context in which it is used, that for proprietary software these are the only aspects of total cost that a business can address (e.g. they can choose whether to use PCs or mainframes, how much training to give etc.), and that these costs will be broadly similar for both proprietary and open software, then the up front licencing costs of proprietary software are the only significant, variable element. These up front costs are also those with the highest present value; its money today not sometime downstream and its generally not directly connected to utilisation or value added. It is the present value argument this has made commercial solutions attractive on comparison with in-house development; I get something now, not sometime in the future.

It also makes open source software very attractive for two reasons; libre products tend also to be gratis so licence costs are eliminated; and there is enormous leverage in participating in an open source community, particularly when tuning a product for a given usage. In this context open source products don't have to be the best, they just have to be 'good enough' for the job today. Even if it is necessary to replace them in the future the deferral of the expenditure is of value. Maybe, for example, you'll need to replace mySQL with Oracle, but maybe you won't need to and maybe by the time you do mySQL will be good enough. As open source applications get better, so the 'good enough' tipping point is reached for a larger and larger community of users.

More interestingly there is significant economic leverage for any company - other than those whose principal business is software development - in contributing effort to open source projects. If, by contributing to a project the free software that is barely 'good enough' can remain so, then the cost of proprietary licences can be deferred indefinitely. Even ignoring the potentially significant, but somewhat nebulous costs, associated with vendor lockin etc., it is justifiable to contribute effort up to some proprtion of the value of proprietary software licences displaced.

> Open Source is about being 'free' - as in 'freedom'.

Why is it that this needs to be pointed out so often, over and over again? Is it because the opponents of Open Source exploit the double-meaning to lead the uninitiated away from the true value of Open Source - not that it "costs nothing", but that it lessens our bondage to corporate vendors.

We talk about "free" software amongst ourselves, knowing jsut what it means, but Joe Public get when we talk about "free" software

The opinion of Joe/Jane Public is important to larger battle between open and closed source. We need them to understand, empathise, and support us in something that they don't really comprehend.

Why then, we when talk about software freedom, can't we actually use the word FREEDOM.

"Open Source Software is Freedom Software."

Perhaps then, the public can see the true vision, and not just the free ride.

Also, Judd's idea (9 September 2003), is something that shoudl receive more airplay. Something else Joe public can understand.
> Open source software is written by people who wish to use it. Closed source software is written by people who wish to SELL it.

Who among their current customers would have any use for a SCO box without an Apache Web Server, a sendmail mail transfer agent, a Samba server. . . .

Actually, lots. My understanding is that SCO's biggest customer base for their OS is intelligent teller (POS?) operations... Not much need for web servers or email there.


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Jim wrote: Five years from now, will anyone care about this little flap?
Warren wrote: Excellent reply. Open Source is the best "open business model" out there as it allows others to contribute based on their ability and receive benefit from the contibution of others. I agree that Open Source is powering the planet and we need to pull the carpet out from corporations like MS that get exceedingly rich by monopoloizing the industry. How much innovation has MS harmed by saying they are the only ones allowed to innovate on the Windows platform. Shame on MS! Regardless of SCO's claims, any issues can be readily adressed in the Open Source movement.
davy crocket wrote: Good article. It is obvious that this is a last attempt for SCO be become profitable. Since sales are slowing, the company has turned to extortion. Microsoft also has a part in this with the financial backing (~1 million dollars) in a joint partnership. Neither Microsoft or SCO will stop the strength and growth of Linux.
James wrote: What I would like to know is whether there IS any SCO code in Linux that wasn't already in there in Caldera Linux distros? I doubt it. Poor SCO. No (more) money for them.
Ademir Klauck wrote: I'm not a expert in law, but everytime I think about this issue I became to the same point: SCO give the code to IBM. IBM put it into Linux. So, the problem is not with the Open Source model. SCO have nothing do deal with Open Source community, because Open Source community doesn't broke any law. Someone who has the code (IBM in this case) put it against SCO knowlodge (I don't see the code to beleive it own to SCO or not) in Open Source. If SCO have anything to clame rights, they need to clame a contract issue against IBM, and only.
Hawkie wrote: That is just the question that needs to be answered. I think we need to debate these issues and find a model where OpenSource contributors are themselves liable for code snippets they donate. This will require a greater amount of work for project managers, but will in general make it a bit safer for corporations to use OpenSource. What also suprises me is the closed minds many has to the fact that the OpenSource community also has its rotten apples. It is just a matter of time before someone gets exposed for contributing copyrighted code, and then we as community needs to already be passed this stage of denial. If not then we will really hurt the future of OpenSource. Just look at all the teenage wannabee hackers that wants to impress by modding virus code and then re-distribute it, dont you all think they will also get into the OpenSource community and "donate" code they have ripped...
gnitgnat wrote: How can we pull together to find a solution?
gnitgnat wrote: OK, got me...
Hawkie wrote: Yes i am very sure they didnt have mainframe access, especially since they are close friends, and the project itself was of such a character that it could not be developed on a Mainframe emulator, since that can not reproduce the specific mainframe itself. But that is not the issue here. It is the legal implications we might face. Personally i wish we all could drop IP laws and share code freely, but that is not how the world works, and companies also has a right to protect their investments in development. I am sometimes surprised how a higly intelligent community can forget the obvious things when doing discussions like this, and when i presented this problem to a magazine editor, he stated that this was an angle he hadn't thought of. I think that is the general problem, we forget the legal things and focus solely on the idealistic motives, but now we have been shown we need to re-e...
gnitgnat wrote: On September 15, Hawkie wrote: >I am myself involved in openSource projects and as such i >also love to study what others do, and reads through their >code. And more than once i have found code snippets i can >clearly guess is borrowed from the employer of one of the >particpating programmers. One example is some code in a >project for clustering Linux, where i KNOW that none of >the programmers had access to their own mainframes, or >heavy duty servers, but several worked for companies that >had some, and that was involved in making similar >solutions. Imagine the future lawsuits here. Hawkie, are you 1000% sure that they didn't have access to a personal mainframe? Never heard of HERCULES, an OPEN SOURCE mainframe emulator for PC's? Well, I think this is another piece of software worth being studied. I for myself do have a personal mainframe at home ;-) Furthermore I don't believe...
Hawkie wrote: As i pointed out earlier the legal issues involving a company using OpenSource software, i still can not see anyone actually willing to address this issue. As i see it, this is the main issue to convince corporate users to use OpenSource. The liability issue is a major one, as the OpenSource end user is actually the liable party. Proprietary software is developed by a company that is a legal entity, and as such this one guarantees for the copyrights involved. In such cases the end user can not be sued by a party claiming copyright issues, only the distributor/manufacturer can be sued. So who will be willing to make a legal change to shield end users of OpenSource ? Well most certainly not any US government, because that would in reality be the same as opening up for re-use of any code found anywhere. So how can this issue be solved ? Well i know that lawyers will have filed day when Open...
Paul Mann wrote: Having used Windows for a graet number of years and spending a fortune on so called upgrade to anothor and due to the fact that Microsoft is the so called " industry standard" I was vey interested when I discovered Linux a few years ago. The very idea of the open source commmunity appealed to me but at the time I found it very difficult to get a system up and running as I did not have the technical knowlwdge. But with some patient study and the advent of graphical installers and the numerous "live cd's" my knowlwde has grown. If you plump for Red Hat, Suse or Mandrake it is now, with a little knowledge as easy to install a linux system on a PC as it is tio install Windows. But the great aded advantage is you get all the neccessary software you need bundled with it. This is what scares the living daylights out of companies producing mainsteram application such as MS Office. I am sure that...
DR wrote: What amazes me in discussions concerning the Open Source business model is how few people appreciate exactly how small software companies are in comparison to the rest of the economy. By far the greater part of business is not involved in developing software products for sale, but in finding customised solutions to their internal business problems. Traditionally there have been only two routes; to buy proprietary solutions, or to develop in-house. Open Source, co-operative development provides an entirely new paradigm. If one accepts that lifecycle costs (in terms of deployment, help desks etc.) are a function primarily of the complexity of an application and the context in which it is used, that for proprietary software these are the only aspects of total cost that a business can address (e.g. they can choose whether to use PCs or mainframes, how much training to give etc.), and that...
Freedom Fries wrote: > Open Source is about being 'free' - as in 'freedom'. Why is it that this needs to be pointed out so often, over and over again? Is it because the opponents of Open Source exploit the double-meaning to lead the uninitiated away from the true value of Open Source - not that it "costs nothing", but that it lessens our bondage to corporate vendors. We talk about "free" software amongst ourselves, knowing jsut what it means, but Joe Public get when we talk about "free" software The opinion of Joe/Jane Public is important to larger battle between open and closed source. We need them to understand, empathise, and support us in something that they don't really comprehend. Why then, we when talk about software freedom, can't we actually use the word FREEDOM. "Open Source Software is Freedom Software." Perhaps then, the public can see the true vision, and not just the free...
Stephen Samuel wrote: Who among their current customers would have any use for a SCO box without an Apache Web Server, a sendmail mail transfer agent, a Samba server. . . . Actually, lots. My understanding is that SCO's biggest customer base for their OS is intelligent teller (POS?) operations... Not much need for web servers or email there.
JonB wrote: These are good questions and have been discussed in various forums. However, here are a few things to consider: Currently the patent laws allow for broad registry of methods or ideas, as it applies to software. This might allow me to take out patents on the design patterns listed by Gamma, et al. So as it currently stands under U.S. laws, your suggested remedies may fail to protect against even independent development of a solution - and by this let me be clear in stating that I mean implemented code. Jason V. Morgan discusses the issues of patents with respect to Open Source and possible remedies in Chaining Open Source. Two patents recently in the news, one involving D.E. Technologies and one involving Eolas Technologies demonstrate problems with the patenting process, and the problems that arise from disregard for...
Hawkie wrote: If a major company is to incorporate open source, how can they ensure that not one of the developers have contributed with source that is copyrighted ? In such a scenario we can get 1000's of businesses in a heavy lawsuit involving a copyright holder. I can even see a new type of fraud growing up around this. Imagine this scenario: A open source project is working really well and expanding. Then a company that has problems competing uses a fake developer and lets him insert some of their code that they have ensured is registered and copyrighted. The open source project then includes this code and publishes their work. Major companies might use it and by such increase the possible targets for a lawsuit. Then suddenly when the software emerging from this project is revealed as a breach on the Intellectual Property of some company. The open source organisations are not liable organisation p...
Bear Pipe wrote: "Mr. McBride wants the OS community to come up with a business model for using open source that he can wrap his greedy little mind around, because he wants to usurp that idea too." Without Open Source, SCO wouldn't exist. Who among their current customers would have any use for a SCO box without an Apache Web Server, a sendmail mail transfer agent, a Samba server and the other software created by the OSS community and used by SCO to get money from current customers--those customers that are still around. It seems terribly two-faced to criticize--and seek payment from--the OSS community for allegedly stealing code that can't be shown to be SCO's property (so far), while at the same time shipping a product that is full of OSS products--which SCO ships without making *any* payments to the OSS community. Go away, Darl!
Stephen Samuel wrote: Just because SCO has been unable, or more realistically unwilling to develop this component of their business to meet the rapidly growing demand, does not mean that the opportunity does not exist and that it is not being capatalized upon now, as we speak. That comment made me laugh -- not because I disagree with it, but because it made me realize domething: Mr. McBride wants the OS community to come up with a business model for using open source that he can wrap his greedy little mind around, because he wants to usurp that idea too. It's not like we're expecting him to come with an inventive idea, are we?
Tsu Dho Nimh wrote: "The giant sucking sound you're hearing, Darl, is the sound of your customers all contributing little pieces to the open source picture - so they can get better value and get rid of you." Not a sucking sound. More like the silent fall of snowflakes, each one a small bit, but collectively capable of changing the landscape beyond recognition. SCO is a dying company, wandering around in a post-blizzard landscape, cursing the snow. I imagine that the monks in their scriptoriums felt about Gutenberg's press the way McBride feels about OSS - and look how successful they were.
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