One of the nice things about organizing events filled with geeks is the fact that I get to hang out with people that are smarter than me. The discussion on Tuesday covered a wide number of subjects but most of the fascination came from what to do with SCO. For those not familiar with the battle, SCO is currently suing IBM, Redhat, and other Linux vendors, claiming that some of its code is present in the Linux operating system. Their claim is based on the concept that they did not authorize their code to be redistributed in such a fashion.
Going further, SCO is now trying to overturn the GPL, the licensing scheme used by most of the open source community to share and redistribute code. As a result, they have essentially gone to war against the whole open source community.
One of the interesting suggestions that came up is the fact that, by saying that Open Source is theft, and that by saying Linux is theft, SCO is essentially defaming any person that uses or promotes Linux and/or open source product.
Based on this insight, it is possible to look forward to a time when geeks might consider striking back. Estimates on the installed base of open source/Linux users ranges from a few millions to much higher numbers. What if a lot of those users were to file defamation lawsuits in their state. This is the concept of death by a thousand paper cuts: with thousands of cases built around defamation of character (“SCO said that I was a thief!”), SCO could find itself battling on many fronts (let’s assume for a second that only 10 people in each state do file such a lawsuit: That’s 500 lawsuits!)
As the discussion shifted around that concept, suspicion was that SCO would then ask to consolidate those lawsuit in a single one at the federal level. At this point, it could be seen essentially as a class action lawsuit. If a single set of firms were to represent that class, we could be looking at a class of several million people. If all those people chipped in 10 dollars each to help defray the cost of the class action, the money raised to fight SCO could run in the millions of dollars.
This could represent a new challenge for SCO, as they would now have to fight a heavily financed machine. I don’t know that much about the law but it seems there is the germ of an interesting idea here, one that could redefine the SCO fight.