An Open Letter To Darl McBride

Mr. McBride:

Late yesterday. I learned that you have charged
that your company is the victim of an insidious conspiracy
masterminded by IBM. You have urged the press and public to believe
that the Open Source Initiative and the Free Software Foundation and
Red Hat and Novell and various Linux enthusiasts are up in arms not
because of beliefs or interests of their own, but because little gray
men from Armonk have put them up to it. Bwahahaha! Fire up the
orbital mind-control lasers!

Very few things could possibly illustrate the brain-boggling
disconnect between SCO and reality with more clarity than hearing you
complain about how persecuted your company is. You opened this
on 6 March by accusing the open-source community of
criminality and incompetence as a way to set up a lawsuit against IBM.
You have since tried to seize control of our volunteer work for your
company’s exclusive gain, and your lawyers have announced
the intention
to destroy not just the GPL but all the open-source
licenses on which our community is built. It’s beyond me how can have
the gall to talk as though we need funding or marching orders from IBM
to mobilize against you. IBM couldn’t stop us from

I’m not sure which possibility is more pathetic — that the
CEO of SCO is lying through his teeth for tactical reasons, or that
you genuinely aren’t capable of recognizing honest outrage when you
see it. To a manipulator, all behaviors are manipulation. To a
conspirator, all opposition is conspiracy. Is that you? Have you
truly forgotten that people might make common cause out of integrity,
ethical considerations, or simple self-defense? Has the reality you
inhabit truly become so cramped and ugly?

I’m in at least semi-regular communication with most of the people
and organizations who are causing you problems right now. The only
conspiracy among us is the common interest in preventing the
open-source community from being destroyed by SCO’s greed and
desperation. (And we think it’s a perfect sign of that desperation
that at SCOforum you ‘proved’ your relevance by
bragging about the amount of press coverage SCO generates. Last I checked,
companies demonstrated relevance by showing products, not
press clippings.)

Yes, one of the parties I talk with is, in fact, IBM. And you know
what? They’re smarter than you. One of the many things they
understand that you do not is that in the kind of confrontation SCO
and IBM are having, independent but willing allies are far better
value than lackeys and sock puppets. Allies, you see, have initiative
and flexibility. The time it takes a lackey to check with HQ for
orders is time an ally can spend thinking up ways to make your life
complicated that HQ would be too nervous to use. Go on, try to
imagine an IBM lawyer approving this letter.

The very best kind of ally is one who comes to one’s side for
powerful reasons of his or her own. For principle. For his or her
friends and people. For the future. IBM has a lot of allies of that
kind now. It’s an alliance you drove together with your
arrogance, your overreaching, your insults, and your threats.

And now you cap it all with this paranoid ranting. It’s classic,
truly classic. Was this what you wanted out of life, to end up
imitating the doomed villain in a cheesy B movie? Tell me, does that
dark helmet fit comfortably? Are all the minions cringing in proper form?
“No, Mr. Torvalds, I expect you to die!” I’d ask if you’d
found the right sort of isolated wasteland for your citadel of dread yet, but
that would be a silly question; you’re in Utah, after all.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Sanity can still prevail. Here’s
the message that Jeff Gerhardt read at SCOforum again:

In recent months, the company formerly known as Caldera and now
trading as SCO has alleged that the 2.4 Linux kernel contains code
misappropriated from it. We in the open-source community are
respectful of intellectual-property rights, and take pride in our
ability to solve our own problems with our own code. If there is
infringing code in the Linux kernel, our community wants no part of it
and will remove it.

We challenge SCO to specify exactly which code it believes to be
infringing, by file and line number, and on what grounds it is
infringing. Only with disclosure can we begin the process of
remedying any breach that may exist. If SCO is truly concerned about
protecting its property, rather than simply using the mere accusations
as a pretext to pump its stock price and collect payoffs from
Microsoft for making trouble, then it will welcome the opportunity to
have its concerns resolved as quickly and with as little disruption as
possible. We are willing to cooperate with that.

The open-source community is not, however, willing to sit idly by
while SCO asserts proprietary control, and the right to collect
license fees, over the entirety of Linux. That is an unacceptable
attempt to hijack the work thousands of volunteer programmers
contributed in good faith, and must end.

If SCO is willing to take the honest, cooperative path forward, so are
we. If it is not, let the record show that we tried before resorting
to more confrontational means of defending our community against

Linus Torvalds is backing me on this, and our other chieftains and
philosopher-princes will as well. Show us the overlaps. If your code
has been inserted in our work, we’ll remove it — not because
you’ve threatened us but because that’s the right thing to do, whether
the patches came from IBM or anywhere else. Then you can call off
your lawyers and everyone will get to go home happy.

Take that offer while you still can, Mr. McBride. So far your
so-called ‘evidence’ is crap;
you’d better climb down off your high horse before we shoot that
sucker entirely out from under you. How you finish the contract fight
you picked with IBM is your problem. As the president of OSI,
defending the community of open-source hackers against predators and
carpetbaggers is mine — and if you don’t stop trying to destroy
Linux and everything else we’ve worked for I guarantee you
won’t like what our alliance is cooking up next.

And in case it’s not pellucidly clear by now, not one single
solitary damn thing I have said or published since 6 March (or at any
time previously for that matter) has been at IBM’s behest. I’m very
much afraid it’s all been me, acting to serve my people the best way I
know how. IBM doesn’t have what it would take to buy me away from
that job and neither do you. I’m not saying I don’t have a price
— but it ain’t counted in money, so I won’t even bother being
insulted by your suggestion.

You have a choice. Peel off that dark helmet and deal with us like
a reasonable human being, or continue down a path that could be bad
trouble for us but will be utter ruin — quite possibly
including jail time on fraud, intellectual-property theft, barratry,
and stock-manipulation charges — for you and the rest of SCO’s
top management. You have my email, you can have my phone if you want
it, and you have my word of honor that you’ll get a fair hearing for
any truths you have to offer.

Eric S. Raymond

President, Open Source Initiative

Friday, 20 August 2003

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