The above statement may seem rather strong to those who don’t know the background. Caldera International was a Linux Distributor. The company had made many improvements to Linux (including the first GUI installer), and while the Caldera version was never as popular as the Red Hat version, it was generally well respected. But Caldera was a money losing proposition. It had never made a profit one during it’s years of operation.
One move that Caldera made to try and become profitable was to buy the Unix business from the Santa Cruz Operation. The aim was to use the software distribution channel that Santa Cruz had successfully built up as a Unix vendor to sell more Linux, as Linux was expected to replace Unix in the X86 marketplace.
And then came Darl. The story gets really murky at this point. The people involved either aren’t talking, or are lying like a rug. This sounds harsh, but it’s the only viable conclusion based on the available evidence.
The public story is that Darl noticed that Caldera’s main source of income was the Unix business it had bought from Santa Cruz, and decided to concentrate on growing it. He also started asking questions about how Linux could be competitive to Unix in features and capabilities when it was a free software project (Darl apparently considered Free Software to be ‘hobbyist’ products, the sort of thing your Aunt May did on Saturday evening). As I said, this is the public story. Supposedly Darl was convinced that someone had transferred capabilities from Unix to Linux, and so Caldera sued IBM.
The lawsuit against IBM which originally was for $1 Billion US sent a shockwave throughout the tech community. Many of us wondered if maybe there wasn’t something to it – after all, the source for Linux was widely available, and if someone had copied something they shouldn’t have into it, it would be easy to find. Another consideration is that only an idiot would sue IBM without solid proof. Seriously. Would you launch a lawsuit against a company that was capable of ‘darkening the sky over Utah with lawyers’ without solid evidence to back up your claims?
I, along with a lot of other geeks started looking for answers. One of my searches lead me to a blog over at Radio Userland called Groklaw in early 2003 (the blog moved to Groklaw.net soon after). The blog was written by a PJ (Pamela Jones), who said she was a Geek and a Paralegal. PJ had written a lot of detailed articles. She explained how the legal system in the United States worked, evaluated the legal filings in the Caldera v. IBM case as they were filed, researched cases that were referenced and explained why they were important, and effectively ran an online seminar for programmers on legal system basics. It was a great resource.
Due to the interest in the case, Judge Kimbell told both parties to minimize redactions in the documents that they filed, and not to minimize the number of documents filed under seal. Because of this we learned that Caldera had hired people to investigate and prove the transfer of code, and that they reported that they COULD NOT FIND PROOF OF ANY TRANSFER. They filed their reports before the original lawsuit was launched. Darl, the CEO knew that he didn’t have any proof. None. But he went ahead with the lawsuit against IBM anyway.
Also there was the issue of whether or not Caldera actually owned the Unix copyrights. It was about this time that Novell, the seller, claimed that they sold the business to Santa Cruz, not the copyrights. So now Caldera sued Novell too. And Red Hat sued Caldera. And Caldera sued AutoZone. And Daimler Chrysler.
It was like watching a rabid dog running down the street, attacking everything in sight.
Or maybe watching a train wreck in slow motion. It was less than six months after the original lawsuit had been filed that PJ, along with the regulars who hung out at Groklaw managed to prove that what Darl was claiming was impossible. Which didn’t stop Darl of course. Remember at the start that I said only an idiot would launch a lawsuit of this sort?
It’s only now, that Caldera (which changed it’s name to SCO Group, apparently to confuse the Jury) has finally ended up in court, in front of a jury. The CEO is gone, they are in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, and even if they win, they probably won’t survive.
And every day, for the last six years, I’ve visited Groklaw at least once a day. My wife at one point accused me of having an online affair with PJ, much to my amusement.
Thank you PJ – for doing a wonderful job. For teaching me so much. For working so hard.
Thursday March 11, 2010