As the saga of the notorious Caldera (SCO) lawsuit winds to a close, we have an opportunity to consider some of the issues it raised (and what better day than October 31).
For those people with better things to do with their time than follow the course of software copyright lawsuits, a software corporation formerly known as "Caldera" bought the SCO (Santa Cruz Operation) trademark from Tarantella Corporation, and a license to the Unix System V code from Novell (of networking fame), then passed itself off as the proprietor of all things UNIX and sued IBM over Linux, the free (speech not beer) Unix compatible operating system.
The SCO lawsuit basically accused IBM of illegally copying System V code they licensed from SCO into Linux. The scope of accusations related to the lawsuit eventually expanded to include claims by SCO that the Gnu General Public License violates the United States Constitution (not a problem for Canadians). The lawsuit, and the escalating accusations from SCO and their supporters prompted accusations from the Linux and free software community that SCO merely acted as a "sock puppet" for Microsoft to destroy the free software and open source movements.
If Microsoft did indeed put SCO up to sue IBM to slow the adoption of Linux, they did not exactly have a clever plot. They ended up bankrolling a dubious lawsuit that left them with bad publicity and a bankrupt investment. If Microsoft really intended to make a devious assault on the free software community, they did a very bad job of it. It does not make sense to throw money into a lawsuit against one of the most popular free programs, backed by some of the most formidable corporate machinery on the planet.
So why did Microsoft back SCO? It doesn't take a conspiracy, either diabolically clever or simply stupid, to explain Microsoft's behavior. Right now, if a medium or large Microsoft customer converts to Unix on the desktop, Microsoft loses that customer completely; Windows, Office, the whole Microsoft product line gets defenestrated. Microsoft had an interest, if nothing else, in making sure they could keep at least a foothold in companies that have moved from Windows to *nix. That would mean porting Office and other Microsoft products to a version of Unix; and obviously, Linux wouldn't do. Therefore, Microsoft had an interest in SCO succeeding and getting clear title to at least their version of Unix. I have no idea whether they really invested in SCO for that reason, and we may never find out.
For now, I will let Unix guru Tony Lawrence sum up the situation with SCO: "it is far past time to be looking into moving on."