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LinuxWorld: Users yawn at SCO's legal action

LinuxWorld Conference & Expo attendees ho-hum the SCO Group's legal battle against Linux. Advocate Bruce Perens, however, points out that SCO may have started an avalanche of patent suits.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Attendees at this week's LinuxWorld Conference & Expo responded with more yawns and irritation than alarm to the SCO Group Inc.'s legal battle against Linux.

"I'm not worried about SCO," said Alexandra Andrews, webmaster for the Berkeley, Calif.-based nonprofit organization Bringing Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency. "It's just sour grapes because SCO missed the boat on Linux on Intel."

For Danny Hinds, the SCO suit "is not a concern at all." Hinds is assistant systems administrator of Gottschalks Inc.'s distribution center in Madera, Calif. He's more interested in his immediate project -- deploying a Linux-based wireless network -- than intellectual property debates.

Andrews and Hinds were typical of LinuxWorld attendees, said Sam Greenblatt, of Computer Associates' Linux technology group. He's talked to many IT pros in CA's booth and "not one mentioned SCO." Information systems managers are more interested in technology and business solutions than legal battles, he said. After all, he noted, the Microsoft antitrust suits made headlines but didn't stop businesses from buying Microsoft products.

Why aren't IT managers worried? For the most part, they think intellectual property is a vendor, not a user, issue. "I don't think it's going to trickle down into the end-user world and somehow upset my technology strategy," said Anthony Hill, chief technology officer for San Francisco's Golden Gate University. In the final analysis, some vendors are going to have to pay off other vendors, he said.

Another reason not to fear SCO: IT managers told that they believe Linux vendors' and analysts' assessments that SCO's arguments are not sound and won't stand up or even get heard in court. Andrews asked: "If the suit is so sound, why won't SCO show us the evidence?"

IT pros are probably right in believing that that SCO will end up settling the case, said Bruce Perens, an open-source developer and author of publisher Prentice Hall's Bruce Perens' Open Source Series. He predicts the public will never view the SCO evidence and that SCO will opt out as soon as it sees it won't win the case.

But it's not just the SCO suit that worries both Perens and LinuxWorld attendee Tony Reichmuch.

"It is alarming that large vendors can actually pull back licenses as a threat against open-source community development," said Reichmuch, consultant for the Emeryville, Calif.-based LeapFrog Enterprises Inc., an interactive learning tool company. "To me, that seems to threaten free trade."

Perens thinks SCO has started an avalanche of suits that could bury the open-source movement. He expects to see hundreds of patent infringement cases against open-source developers in the next few years. "SCO is not the big threat; the movement for software patents is," he said in a one-on-one interview with

Software patenting poses many problems for open-source software developers. For instance, royalty-bearing patents could be inserted into industry standards. Royalties fly in the face of and pose legal threats to free software development, Perens said.

Perens' message to LinuxWorld attendees and IT managers at large: Lobby your vendors to work to protect open-source developers. Otherwise, you may have to kiss the great open-source software deals you've gotten goodbye.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: coverage of LinuxWorld Ask the Experts news exclusive: "Who owns Unix? Open Group seeks to clarify" news exclusive: "SCO suit could set nasty precedents for Linux"

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