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Groklaw: How One Person Can Do Big Deeds. Thanks PJ.
The endless SCO saga is finally at an end, and justice has prevailed. But without Groklaw, would it have ended differently?
Let me rephrase that: it will probably continue to sputter and emit random gases, because the nice SCO leadership and their backers are masters of weaving grand propositions out of fantasy, and perpetuating their fantasies in the seemingly non-functional US civil courts system. But for all non-Bizarro world purposes it is over. The SCO vs. Novell verdict settles the key question of who owns the Unix copyrights. Answer: not SCO. I know, it's a little more complex than that because there are several Unix variants. But as far as SCO's silly claims against Linux, it is definitively over.
Those of us who followed this loony saga from the beginning are wondering: What would have happened if Pamela Jones and Groklaw had not taken an interest in this case? Would there have been any semblance of truth anywhere? I think not.
Cast your minds back to the beginning in 2003, when Groklaw was a few months old, and had moved from Radio UserLand to its current home on Ibiblio.org. Darl McBride was shooting off his mouth to anyone who would listen, spouting the craziest nonsense. The SCO Group were making novel claims like IBM was devaluing their business by stealing SCO's Unix code and infiltrating it into Linux, which transformed Linux from an inferior hobbyist's toy into an enterprise powerhouse that stole SCO's business.
It was unusually entertaining for business litigation: this unknown pipsqueak taking on Big Blue, a crazy braggart CEO who was always good for fun sound bites, the SCO Information Minister Blake Stowell emitting equally nonsensical comments with a straight face, and escalating legal claims against AutoZone, DaimlerChrysler, and Novell. When media interest waned he re-gained center stage with stunts like hiring celebrity loser lawyer David Boies, and claiming that crazy Linux fanatics threatened his life so he had to hire a bodyguard.
Fueling the fun was both the mainstream and tech press dutifully reporting all of it, without bothering to question any of CEO McBride's claims or do any independent investigation. And then there were the fine "independent" industry "analysts" and "reporters" (yes, my fine readers, those quote marks indicate sarcasm) like Laura DiDio of the Yankee Group, Dan Lyons of Forbes magazine, and Rob Enderle and Maureen O'Gara of anyone who would publish them, who wrote thousands of words solemnly assuring their readers that SCO's claims were solid, and boy were those unwashed Linux hippies going to be sorry they stole all that stuff from SCO.
The deck was completely stacked against any kind of real reporting from the beginning. Would this have mattered in the courtroom? After all, SCO was taking on companies many times larger, and who had the deep pockets to fund all the legal firepower they needed. So I can't say what effect Groklaw might have had in the courtroom, if any.
But Groklaw had a huge effect on getting the truth out, informing and energizing people who were following the case. PJ dug through the mounds of manure and obfuscation and uncovered what was really going on. She analyzed and posted reams of court filings, challenged Darl's ridiculous claims (which should have aroused skepticism in anyone with an ounce of sense), and inspired hordes of volunteers to attend court sessions, transcribe grotty PDF transcripts, and do additional research. She preserved archives of SCO's own online documents which later disappeared, or were changed. She also inspired a number of journalists to go beyond the sound bites and do some digging of their own. Groklaw awakened an interest in the law in a lot of its followers, and gave a fascinating inside look into how the law works.
She did all this despite ongoing harassment and threats. That takes bravery, and not many people would have persisted. Thank you PJ, what you have achieved with Groklaw is a very big deal. We owe you a lot.