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Saturday, August 11, 2012
I would submit this impression about SCO v. IBM is not correct and that while SCO may have lost the legal suit, it did at least create a precedent that illegally copying code will not go unchallenged. Let's think about what open source is or should be. Say I have a game I am writing about say shooting UFO's, and part of the game is figuring out what is a UFO versus what is a regular airplane. Say the game is unstable, such that the code I have for determining what is a UFO sometimes gives me false positives, such that the game might incorrectly identify an airplane as a UFO. Now, for the sake of argument, let's say a commercial company has some really great image processing software to do this very thing - determining the difference in a computer image between an airplane and a flying saucer. Now, if my game has some bugs, in the open source world, I can publish my code on a website so others can play around with it and improve it, and that is fine, and that is what open source is all about, people by their own volition working on a project just for fun on their own time to make it better. Nothing wrong with that. But what if, instead of doing that, I was able to access that commercial company's code base that had the code needed to fix the bugs I had, and I just copied that and pasted it into my code to fix the bugs in my game? That is not open source, that is simply stealing the work of others and then crying foul about the open source movement when someone called me on it.
This is precisely what the SCO v. IBM suit was all about. The Linux operating system, supported by IBM, was at one time an open source project which like many open source projects had a lot of bugs and was not really usable in the real world. IBM hired some software developers from SCO and got them to copy/paste code from SCO's Unix operating system into IBM's Linux operating system, and then, presto, IBM's Linux started working better and IBM made a lot of money, leaving SCO with nothing. This is not right, not in America. It is not against open source to say that while open source is great, the line needs to be drawn against using someone else's code without their permission to improve one's open source project and then profiting from that, without remuneration to the party from whom one has illegally stolen code. That is not open source, that is theft, plain and simple, and that is what the SCO lawsuit was all about. It was not saying open source was deleterious to the software industry, it was saying to not use other folks' code without permission to add to an open source project and then profit from it. In fact, that activity is the opposite of open source because open source is about the love of the game so to speak, working on a project for fun, not for the profits. Really it was IBM who abused the open source movement, not SCO, because IBM took an open source project, Linux, stole code from SCO to make Linux more stable, and then made lots of money from it and did not give SCO a dime in return. That is not open source, that is theft, and it is insulting to the open source movement to associate it with IBM Linux. IBM is the true enemy of open source, not SCO. Darl McBride (pictured), the CEO of SCO who sued IBM was not going after the open source movement, he was really standing up for the integrity of the entire software industry, and, really, for those honest open source folks who would never steal code to profit thereby and who rather work on open source projects for their own sake.
SCO went after IBM because IBM stole their code, and then IBM tried to say SCO was trying to garrotte the open source movement. Not so. It was IBM who turned open source into a shady enterprise by stealing code to stabilize an open source project (Linux) and then laughed all the way to bank on that one. Open source is about writing code for fun, not necessarily profit, and it certainly is not about stealing code. If anything, SCO helped the open source movement by going after an entity which had abused its good name, that is, IBM which took an open source project and turned it into a profit-making entity by illegal stealing of additional code.
Darl McBride is an American hero and even if that is not understood today, it will be understood by history, that "final judge of our deeds" as JFK would have it. Because he stood up for the rights of individuals to profit from their own labor and not have it stolen by others for their own purposes. I am sure that whomever it was that invented fire got their invention stolen by the tribal chief or whomever it was and perhaps, as Ayn Rand put it, "probably burned at the stake he taught his brothers to light...but he lifted darkness off the earth".
Linux was an unstable P.O.S. back in the 90's until IBM got the great idea to steal code from SCO's Unix operating system, and then as a result Linux became stable and IBM profited greatly therefrom. Profiting from the achievements of others without their consent is not the American way, and, indeed, societies which go down this path end up stagnating by punishing achievers, and wind up backward and finally collapse, in their "return to the primitive", to further quote Ms. Rand.
SCO stood up for a person's right to profit from their own achievement and even if it is no longer around, history will vindicate their action. Darl McBride will be remembered as one who fought for the rights of the individual against tyranny, for freedom against slavery, for intellectual liberty against herd mentality. In short, he is a Howard Roarke (Ayn Rand's protagonist in "The Fountainhead") for our age. Below is Gary Cooper as Howard Roarke discussing this very issue: the individual versus the collective, about how the collective should never be allowed, as IBM did, to profit from the individual against his consent. Enjoy.
- Sometime engineer, amateur pundit, amateur actor, amateur poet, cosmology and biology enthusiast, sometime critic, part Objectivist, part Realist, emphatic Empiricist, not above the occasional employment of mythical references for the sake of description in a sort of Ursula Goodenough-esque sort of way, politically centrist, fiscally slightly right, socially slightly left, believer in open global trade, a "Rent"-head, conneisseur of Armani, Louis Vuitton, sushi, fish tacos, lobster, Lovecraft, Barbara Streisand, Elton John, in short, one at home in the modern, ill-at home in the post-modern, and decidedly forlorn in the pre-modern
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