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McBride intimates code cleanup in Linux nigh impossible

SCO Group CEO Darl McBride reacts to the latest volley from the open source community, and he suggests that cleaning up the Linux code that, according to SCO, infringes on the company's Unix IP would leave the open source OS virtually unrecognizable.

Darl McBride

The seemingly endless war of words between the SCO Group and the Linux and open source communities took another turn Monday, when CEO Darl McBride lashed out at a report published by Free Software Foundation legal counsel Eben Moglen.

Moglen, a Columbia University law professor, recently labeled as desperate SCO's $3 billion lawsuit against IBM and its threats against the open source community.

This week, McBride turned the argument around, saying, in an exclusive interview with, that it is the Linuxphiles who are desperate and on the run, as the case moves further away from a settlement and closer to a courtroom, where McBride says he would prevail.

Moglen had said that, because Lindon, Utah-based SCO has distributed Linux under the General Public License, which allows users to copy, modify and distribute open source software, the company has essentially published its "trade secrets" under a license that gives users permission to redistribute them. Moglen said this act undermines SCO's recent attacks on the GPL, which SCO has labeled as unenforceable and unconstitutional.

McBride this week rejected those arguments.

"If you want to talk about desperate, it's the Free Software Foundation," McBride told "If you go by what it says in the GPL, if you infringe on someone else's code, the only recourse is to either take it out or shut down the distribution. This validates our claims, and their only solution is to shut down Linux. If they shut down Linux, it's an unmitigated disaster."

McBride reaffirmed that he does not want to put an end to Linux, but he says that, if the millions of lines of code he claims infringe upon SCO's intellectual property rights were removed from Linux, the operating system would be virtually unrecognizable.

"The question is not whether the code can be cleaned, but at what level? If you go back to the way Linux was in the mid-1990s, that's the only version I see working," McBride said. "We are not trying to kill Linux."

McBride said the System V Unix code IBM allegedly contributed to the Linux kernel can stay, so long as SCO is reimbursed with a "royalty."

"We are trying to deal with the problem, but we are shouted down, so we'll go to court, put our case on the table and say, 'Here we go boys; here's the problem,'" McBride said. "It's either clean it up or shut it down, and this kind of cleanup is an Exxon-Valdez kind of cleanup. It's not simple."

McBride said that SCO's business, meanwhile, has not suffered since the suit was announced in the spring. He said that SCO's core Unix business is up, as are the company's license sales. SCO's market cap has gone from $6 million to $250 million. Cash reserves have swollen to $60 million, primarily because of a recent $50 million investment from venture capital firm BayStar Capital.

"It's clear to me that people are trying to shut us down. But I've talked to Linux developers who know their code is in there and have said to me, 'There has to be a better way to work this out,'" McBride said. "This does have the potential to shut down Linux. The longer the clock ticks, the [greater the] potential for this to end up in court. And as this happens, the more excited we get. If this plays out favorably in court, the possibility of huge punitive damages coming our way is very high.

"People talk about April 2005 [the projected court date] as being eons away, but we're almost in 2004, and it's starting to look like it's not so far out."

And does SCO want to be acquired?

"I think every public company has a price tag on them; whether that would be acceptable, shareholders determine that," McBride said. "From the management team's standpoint, we're happy where we are. We are not trying to sell the company. We are trying to get compensation from the marketplace."

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