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The Final Curtain

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I feel like I am watching one of those movies that looks like it's almost wrapping up with a big finish... and then all of a sudden it seems to be another half-hour of plot exposition as the director and writers finally yank the storyline over to where the ending should be, instead of where they were taking it.

I refer to the much-talked about ruling from Federal Judge Dale Kimball in the SCO v. Novell case. Everyone is chiming in with an opinion on what they think is going to happen now.

Of course, leading the opinion trail is Pamela Jones of Groklaw, as well she should. I have used her as a source before, and did so again this week when I was putting my Enterprise Unix Review article.

I put that article together Tuesday afternoon, while smoke was metaphorically coming out of my DSL modem and the LT servers, all at the same time. I was, needless to say, a bit distracted. Still, I came up with a theory or two, based on the premise that the Novell and IBM cases would indeed continue to go to trial. In fact, I framed my questions to PJ with that idea in mind.

"With such huge hole in SCO's case, [I wrote] one might wonder if the suit (and the suit against IBM) will even go on. Wonder no further. SCO still has other claims in both suits and, more importantly, both Novell and IBM have some things to settle with SCO. Neither one of these companies may have any interest in letting SCO off the hook. Think of the last scene in Jaws, when Quint suddenly discovers he's the prey. Got that picture in your head?

The continuation of the trials may, ultimately, be a good thing. There has already been some mutterings in the punditry crowd that the self-destruction of the Novell case will not reveal the ultimate 'hidden truth'--is there pilfered Unix code in the Linux kernel? To date, no evidence of such code has been found, but ever-cautious IT managers out there might want to see a real ending to this legal saga.

So, this morning I put it to the media expert on the SCO saga, Pamela Jones, creator of Groklaw. In her opinion, what is the likelihood that the SCO v. IBM suit will continue, to get the alleged infringement question settled?

Jones, who has very little truck with any notion that there ever was code infringement, replied That question has already been answered. There is no code on the planet that has been picked over and analyzed as thoroughly as the Linux kernel, and it's clean, clean, clean.

'But in any case, the two litigations will proceed to trial, and the cherry will be put on top of what the marketplace already knows,' she added.

I don't usually go around quoting myself, since it's rather pretentious. But I am doing it now for a good reason: I'm mulling another conclusion about the matter, and I want to make sure everyone knows that PJ answered my questions in good faith that I put to her in good faith. My change in opinion is not meant to blind-side her in anyway, as evidenced by the fact that the original opinion article ran with my first thesis in place. (Because, frankly, there's nothing more dishonest for a writer to do to an interviewee than to allow them think that the story will be about one thing, only to find their quotes held up for ridicule or juxtaposition by the writer.)

Anyway, my mind has been less distracted since Tuesday, and now I am beginning to wonder if IBM and Novell will really want to carry these suits forward after all. I initially thought they would, if only to get their pound of flesh. But if SCO's not going to be worth much anymore, that pound of flesh will only amount to a few scraps.

Plus, I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday, who brought up the possibility that in a civil case, there may not be a clear-cut winner in a final judgment. Often, my non-lawyer, but very smart friend said, in civil cases there can be a quid pro quo of sorts to give the loser some concessions.

Not to mention the fact that even if SCO is decimated by a final verdict, they will very likely appeal and drag this thing on for years.

With these three things in mind, then it might be to IBM and Novell's benefit to settle the case now, and get it done on their terms and in their own desired time frame. I have little doubt that settlement offers have been made in these cases many times before now. Perhaps, now that SCO has been whacked upside the head, they'll be ready to listen to such offers more closely.


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