SCO: GPL threatens $229B software market

SCO CEO says proprietary, open-source worlds are on 'collision course' that will lead to GPL's demise

LAS VEGAS -- The SCO Group Inc.'s Chief Executive Officer, Darl McBride, enlisted the help of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to bolster his arguments against the open source GPL (GNU General Public License) and Linux during a keynote address at the CD Expo conference here in Las Vegas.

Citing WIPO data, McBride said that the value of the worldwide software market would approach $229 billion by 2007, and that it was being threatened by the ideas behind the Free Software Foundation's GPL, the software license that governs Linux.

"The world, especially here in America, is shifting to one that is an information society," McBride said. "In the future, is that $229 billion in software still going to be there? Or in the case of the Free Software Foundation's goal, is proprietary software going to go away?"

Attendees of McBride's keynote were handed a WIPO primer on intellectual property (IP) law entitled "Intellectual Property: A Power Tool for Economic Growth." The pamphlet had been shipped to SCO by WIPO free of charge, a SCO spokesman said.

McBride likened the notion of free software to a variety of movements including file sharing, the dot-com bubble, and even free love. He predicted that the proprietary and open-source worlds were on a "collision course," that would ultimately result in the end of the GPL license.

IBM Corp. was to blame for the threat to the GPL because it had raised the issue of GPL violations in an August lawsuit against SCO, McBride said. That suit was filed in response to a lawsuit filed by SCO against IBM in March that claimed IBM's contributions to the Linux operating system violated IBM's Unix license.

"There is no doubt that the GPL is at risk right now, but let's all keep in mind the history of this. We are not the ones who put it there. That came from IBM," he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, SCO announced that it expects to take a charge of almost $9 million during its fourth quarter, which ended on Oct. 31, 2003, for legal costs related to its Linux litigation.

The money will be used to pay legal costs relating to a new lawsuit that will be brought against a Linux user within the next 90 days, McBride said.

McBride also took time during his keynote to defend his management, saying that he had cut SCO's quarterly losses and restored the company's value from a low of $6 million to its current value of over $200 million, despite intense pressure from both the computer industry and Linux users.

He said prior to SCO's $3 billion lawsuit with IBM, he had been warned that "if we started talking about IP infringements inside of Linux, the company would be crucified by the Linux community."

"I went back to my CEO 101 book," he said. "I didn't see in there that the Linux community was one of my constituents."

McBride also disputed that he was a "sue-happy cowboy," with one concession. "On my birth certificate, under my father's occupation, it says cowboy," he said. "So I will admit to being a cowboy, but not sue-happy."

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