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Date: Thu, 11 Sep 2003 08:37:14 -0400
From: Ruben Safir Secretary NYLXS
Subject: [hangout] [html-at-ssc.com: SuitWatch - September 11]
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Reply-To: Ruben Safir Secretary NYLXS
List: New Yorker GNU Linux Scene
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Views on Linux in Business
--by Doc Searls, Senior Editor of Linux Journal
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Thursday, September 11, 2003--The numbers 911 had a different meaning
before two years ago today. When suicide hijackers attacked and
destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11,
2001, those three numbers came to mean the first "day which will live
in infamy" since December 7, 1941, when the attack on Pearl Harbor was
given that five-word label by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
What made 9/11 infamous was not only that something terrible happened
that day, but that we were changed by it. And by "we" I mean everybody
in the civilized world.
Andy Grove says an "inflection point" is "an event that changes the
way we think and act". History changes course as it passes inflection
points, which are accompanied, Grove says, by "a troubling sense that
everything is different".
Some things, however, are more different than others. The biggest
difference after 9/11 was in our tolerance for terrorism. Since 9/11
we have been engaged in a "war on terrorism", in which the US has led
military invasions and (what we politely call) "regime changes" in
Afghanistan and Iraq. That kind of thing would have been
unthinkable--or at least politically impossible--before the 9/11
And the smallest difference?
Well, Linux comes to mind--not because it hasn't changed, but because
it has grown relentlessly. That kind of growth brings to mind a
different kind of inflection point: what Malcolm Gladwell calls "the
Tipping Point" (in his book by the same name). Gladwell borrows the
term from epidemiology, where it means "that moment in an epidemic
when a virus reaches critical mass". In technology, tipping points are
reached when contagions of popularity start surging toward ubiquity.
It's right to expect some kind of Newtonian response to a growth surge
like the one Linux is experiencing right now: an action/reaction kind
of thing. That, I believe, is why history called forth SCO, its
lawsuit against IBM and its relentless FUD campaign against Linux and
open source. Linux use is growing so rapidly--and calls into question
so many default assumptions--that backlash is inevitable.
Today, as I'm writing this (on Tuesday, 9/9, before I leave on a
trip), we're experiencing a round of volleys between SCO's Darl
McBride and leaders of the Open Source movement. Early in the day,
McBride issued a "Letter to the Open Source Community" that, among
other things, accused Eric S. Raymond of concealing the identity of
the perpetrator of a denial of service (DoS) attack on SCO:
There is no question about the affiliation of the attacker -- Open
Source leader Eric Raymond was quoted as saying that he was
contacted by the perpetrator and that "he's one of us." To Mr.
Raymond's partial credit, he asked the attacker to stop. However,
he has yet to disclose the identity of the perpetrator so that
justice can be done.
Later in the day, Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens published a response:
1 that said (among other things):
Your statement that Eric Raymond was "contacted by the perpetrator"
of the DoS attack on SCO begins the falsehoods. Mr. Raymond made
very clear when volunteering his information and calling for the
attack to cease that he was contacted by a third-party associate of
the perpetrator and does not have the perpetrators identity to
reveal. The DoS attack ceased, and has not resumed. Mr. Raymond
subsequently received emailed thanks for his action from Blake
Stowell of SCO.
Eric also wrote a longer and more emotional open letter:
hive.html on his own web log. Here's how it ends:
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, [the role of] 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.
That evening, on "The Linux Show" (a weekly Tuesday night radio show
where I'm a regular), Eric offered an explanation:
At SCO forum, Jeff (Gerhardt) read out a message from me basically
extending an olive branch to Darl McBride. And the following day
Darl McBride came out with an interview:
http://www.nwfusion.com/news/2003/0825scoatta.html, where he said,
"It's all a huge conspiracy! IBM is pulling everybody's strings!.
Eric is on IBM's payroll! Everything he says is being dictated by
little green men from Armonk! ...
So I wrote back my little peroration to Darl.... It was kind of
heated, because I thought that was appropriate.
To get some clarification about what exactly happened, I said to Eric,
"He basically accused you of illegally harboring...".
Eric continued: "After that happens, the DoS attack starts. I put out
a statement that said "Look, if this is one of us, it's got to stop."
And I got a phone call from a person who said, "I know who is doing
this...I'm not going to tell you his name, but I'm going to tell you
that he has agreed to stop, because you asked."
"Was this phone call from somebody you knew?" I asked.
The person who actually perpetrated the attack was using his
friend, somebody I did not know, as a proxy, so that he could
disclose the information that he was shutting down the attack and
that he had basically seen the light and thought my ethical
argument was a good one. So I put out a statement that said, "Yeah,
it really was one of us, and I'm ashamed about that, but instead of
burying this under the rug, we need to face and process as a
community the fact that this type of behavior is not acceptable and
never do it again."
Consider the alternate futures here. I think that if I hadn't
spoken up, it would have come out anyway. And the community as a
whole and I would have looked a lot worse if it came out and we
didn't put our objections to this on record. Now the story we can
tell is, "Look, it happened, Open Source community leaders said
this is not acceptable, and it stopped."
For a more removed perspective on the conflict, I like "Clearing the
Chaos from SCO":
http://governmentforge.org/archives/000064.html, by Tom Adelstein at
GovernmentForge.org. Here's an excerpt:
The organizing principles of American thought have little to do
with individual eminence and everything to do with the common good.
Over two hundred years ago, the 13 colonies articulated the basis
for a life void of dominion by others. We do not view ownership of
property as the primary prerequisite of human rights. (Feudalism
views property ownership as the prerequisite for human rights.) We
view the common good as the reason for having a country, a
government and the rule of law. Consider this a doctrine for the
The American experience provides us with the basis for our world
view and unless seen through our eyes, others can only speculate as
to our motives. Also, the doctrine of common good extends no
further than our own borders. These organizing principles exist for
citizens of the United States.
A prime example came to mind today when Adam Differed of the New
Zealand Times said, "Lawyer Craig Horrocks sees a need to defend
the intellectual property issues around Linux, particularly in
areas where the upstart operating system threatens Microsoft
Only in America would someone understand that the existence of
"intellectual property" has no meaning. To take that a step
further, the idea of anyone having domination has little to do with
intellectual property. Microsoft's and SCO's fate became sealed
once they began to threaten the common good of their countrymen.
The argument people must understand involves provisions established
to allow Microsoft and SCO time to collect tolls on their works. In
both cases, evidence exists to establish abuse by each of those
companies. If that evidence appears articulate to a judge and/or
jury, the companies will lose their legal status to collect tolls.
The existence of Linux under any circumstances cannot be threatened
in the United States of America. No matter what SCO's lawyers,
Boies, Schiller & Flexner say, the US Copyright Act does not take
priority over the GPL license. The context of the Copyright Act and
the GPL exists as the Public Domain. Every other consideration
exists as content within the context of the common good.
Mr. Darl McBride apparently sees the world differently. The
Economist says that at "a more general level (and surprisingly for
a Linux distributor), he [McBride] found the entire free-software
I suppose the United Kingdom-based Economist sees Mr. McBride's
views as possibly valid. From London, perhaps the idea of property
still forms the basis of their worldview. Contrary to my friend's
belief that England populated our shores and built our
infrastructure, they did no such thing. To confuse the doctrine of
common good with the Communist Manifesto indicates how wide of the
mark Mr. McBride took aim.
I think Tom is wrong to see feudalistic bases for what we read about
the cited cases from New Zealand and the UK. I also don't think
Microsoft's fate is sealed--not with $32+ billion in sales, a 13.5%
sales growth rate and an income of nearly $10 billion that's growing
at a rate of 27.6% per year. (SCO, on the other hand, seems to have an
existence that consists increasingly of bellicose
grandstanding--funded, in part, by license fees paid to the company by
Microsoft. The gargantuan size of SCO's lawsuit against IBM alone
reminds me of the old joke about the flea floating down the river on
his back with a hard-on, yelling "Raise the bridge!")
But I love what Tom says about the common good. Because it applies not
only to our government and the rule of law, but to the fundamental
altruisms of market economics. Many markets--including some huge
ones--are created and sustained by common goods that are free. Linux
is about as far from "communistic" as infrastructure can get. It's
something the free market has done with the freedom to make itself
larger and more supportive of more businesses.
Linux is free infrastructure, created by participants in the open
marketplace. As free market infrastructure, Linux creates many more
opportunities than it destroys. That's why the problem for SCO and
Microsoft is not that Linux and open source devalue their intellectual
properties, but that both companies fail to see obvious opportunities
in a marketplace that is open to countless participants and unwelcome
to manipulative monopolists and litigious losers.
Let's look at that marketplace for a minute.
It is impossible to separate the growth of Linux and open source from
the growth of the Internet. Look at the Netcraft Web server market
http://news.netcraft.com/. Apache, which runs mostly on Linux and BSD
(both open-source operating systems), now serves up pages for 67.45%
of the Web's active sites, a surveyed total from 13,371,621 servers.
Microsoft's IIS is second at 24.23% and has declined (while Apache has
advanced) almost steadily since peaking near 35% in March 2002.
Nobody owns the Net, yet look at all the business the Net supports. I
just checked out some statistics at ePayNews.com:
http://www.epaynews.com/statistics/ , which gathers numbers by the
truckload. They're amazing. For example, Gartner Group describes a
staggering increase in B2B transactions on the Net. Between 1999 and
2004, it sees worldwide growth rising from $145 billion to $7.29
trillion. The only number that goes down is the US percentage of the
total, dropping from 63% to 39%. Where transactions happen, markets
exist. Just ask Amazon, Merrill-Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Orbitz,
Burlington Coat Factory or any of the other companies whose computing
infrastructure relies on Linux.
I don't know about the rest of you, but to me those numbers in the
last paragraph seem a fine memorial to the late World Trade Center.
mailto:doc-at-ssc.com is Senior Editor of Linux Journal. His monthly
column in the magazine is Linux for Suits, and his biweekly newsletter
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