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The Little SCO That Cried Wolf


Once upon a time, there was a little company named SCO that lived in the town of Unix. Now, SCO often ventured out in the woods. One day, it ran back shouting that that nasty bully IBM had attacked it.

And, what do you know? People paid attention! They came from all around and said, “You poor little company with your Project Monterey hopes all dashed! Poor little company—you may have a point!

SCO was happy. It hadnt received so much attention in years. And hey: Its stock price wasnt doing so badly, either.

So SCO went back into the woods and found that maybe, just maybe, some of its Unix intellectual property had been swiped by that nasty old penguin Linux.

Now, this was kind of funny since SCO was once Linuxs best buddy. They used to play together; they used to work together; why, SCOs programmers even contributed code to it in exchange for the promise of open-source money.

But, SCO said, “Oh, were not a Linux company now. Pay no attention to what we said and did before. Today, were telling you, cross our heart and hope to die, that Linux stole source from us and thats no lie!”

Well, once again there was much shouting and attention. There was even more than before! But some of the penguins friends became quite sore.

“We didnt steal a thing!” they said. And they came out to proclaim this by the score. “Prove it!” they said, but little SCO said, “No. Ill not show you a thing unless you sign a nondisclosure agreement and not one moment before.”

Well, the penguins friends didnt like this at all and so none of them came by to call.

Then, things grew quiet, they grew quite calm, and then SCO started again with another great call.

“People who own penguins owe us money now, too! And, you over there who use Unix and Linux, you owe us even more! If ever you were a friend of the penguin, pay us money now or youll go to the pen and well make you quite sore.”

And so the weeks went by, and SCO shouted yet more. “The penguins license that wasnt fair! Why, yes, we use it too when we dance the Samba, but thats neither here nor there.”

Then a funny thing happened. Where once people crowded around, now fewer came by whenever SCO made a cry.

“Its just SCO being SCO,” theyd say, and walk on by.

Then one day, SCOs Web site was hit! It was DoSed and the site had a fit. But, no one paid attention, they just said, “Oh SCOs faking it,” and they didnt care a fig that SCOs site had been bit.

And, today, SCO still cries that this is wrong, and that is wrong, and that it will be rich soon and all those Linux fans will be sorry. But, SCO has shouted so long that when businesses and analysts alike hear them, they say, “Oh, that SCO… Theyre just crying wolf, and well pay no more attention to them from here on.”

Excuse my fractured fairy tale, but I think thats exactly what is happening to SCO. Many people assumed that the DoS attack had been faked. It wasnt. So now, SCO can be completely in the right and still not taken seriously.

Personally, I dont think SCO has a leg to stand on in its copyright cases, but I do know one thing: By constantly playing up its threats, SCO has become a company that has cried wolf too often. The latest threat was that anyone who uses Unix legally cant use Linux.

Even people I know who used to take SCO seriously, have gotten weary of SCOs ever expanding claims. They want real proof. If SCO has another intellectual property customer besides Microsoft and Sun, they want to know who it is. In short, they want SCO to stop crying wolf and show some fur, some teeth, something more than an eternal cry of the grievances and victimization.

If not, well, companies that cry wolf too often eventually run into real wolves–perhaps Novells counterclaims on SCOs Unix copyrights?–and thats the end of them.

A version of this story first appeared in eWEEK.

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