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The Open Source Community Rallies Against SCO

The open source community consists of software programmers who voluntarily donate their time and skills to make software programs freely available to everyone to use. This community has rallied against SCO for at least five reasons:

  • Many community members subscribe to the philosophy that "information wants to be free." SCO's attempts to appropriate UNIX for itself, and in the process remove some UNIX variations from the public domain, runs directly contrary to that philosophy.

  • Should SCO win, the software industry will lose control over a widely used program. Furthermore, the many hours invested by the open source community in Linux and other infringing UNIX variations may be lost.

  • The lawsuit injects the specter of legal liability into the operation of the open source community. The open source community is premised on the free exchange of software, which works only if everyone contributing to the collective storehouse has sufficient intellectual property rights to make the contribution. Instead, if even one developer contributes infringing works to the storehouse, all "downstream" users run the risk of being sued for infringement. This risk of infringement reduces user willingness to adopt open source software. Thus, the SCO litigation jeopardizes the entire open source model by undercutting the attractiveness of open source software.

  • Caldera Systems, the corporate entity now trading as SCO, originated as an open source company (originally, its only product was a Linux version). The open source community feels betrayed by a company that formerly supported and marketed open source products.

  • Many community members feel personally attacked by SCO's actions. One open source programmer commented that the SCO complaint "slandered open source developers in passing, with SCO asserting that the Linux operating system had been worthless junk produced by incompetents before IBM injected stolen SCO technology into it."

Clearly, SCO's actions pose a significant challenge to the open source community. It's a challenge that they're not taking lightly.

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