Midrange.com goes to Court

I went to witness the April 21 hearing in the SCO vs. IBM case. It was a fascinating and enlightening experience. I had never been to court before and it was much different than I had imagined.

First let me tell you a bit about me and why I went to see the case. My name is James Rich. I work for a two-man company as a consultant and programmer. I started using UNIX in January 1994 and GNU/Linux in mid-1995. Besides my work on the iSeries I use linux exclusively. I am not a lawyer and have no law training. But I am quite familiar with UNIX history and Linux history. I have also been following the SCO vs. IBM case as much as a lay person can.

My main motivation to attend the hearing was spurred by recent comments made by SCO’s CEO Darl McBride disparaging Pamela Jones of Groklaw. McBride questions Ms. Jones’ true identity and the motivations behind her site. Knowing that Groklaw is primarily a repository of legal filings made in the case and an explanation of what they mean, I was upset at Mr. McBride’s accusations. Since I live in Salt Lake City I decided I should attend the hearing to decide for myself who was telling the truth.

I arrived at the courtroom at about 2:45 p.m. The hearing was scheduled to start at 3:00 p.m. I had no troubles getting in (I had called ahead previously to make sure that the public was allowed and to ask if I needed any special credentials). I counted 26 people in the audience, but about 8 of those were probably lawyers helping with the case somehow. The courtroom was quite impressive and ornate. While waiting for the hearing to start I tried to find some water to soothe the cough I’ve had from a week long cold. No luck.

At 3:00 promptly Judge Kimball entered and the hearing began. I took notes throughout. The lawyers often referenced cases I knew nothing about or spoke using "legalese" but I believe I understood most of what was going on. The part that was hardest for me to follow was some argument surrounding rules and procedures of the court, notably Rule 15 (I don’t know what Rule 15 is – I’m sure Groklaw can tell you). However to my relief, the majority of the arguments were quite plain to understand.

I took notes as best I could. But my notes don’t say anything that you won’t find in Groklaw’s own coverage, so I won’t bother to post them here. After all, my main purpose in going was to find out whether or not Groklaw is spreading misinformation and doing all the things Mr. McBride claims it is, not to make a transcript of the proceedings. However, it is worth pointing out here that the main thing that struck me as odd were SCO’s claims that they had no idea that IBM had a linux strategy before 2001 and that IBM put SVR4 UNIX code into AIX without a license. Anyone who was paid much attention to linux news at all over the years knows that IBM has been doing linux work for a long time. My personal recollection of events pretty much matches that posted by Ms. Jones’ in her research into Project Monterey. So I was very surprised when SCO’s lawyers claimed that they were in the dark as respecting IBM’s activities.

I learned a lot about the courts from my visit and continued study. But the most important result is that I can tell you plainly that Groklaw’s reporting of the courtroom events is accurate. There is no distorting of the facts. There are no "spies" or miscreants, just normal people who are very interested in what is going on and doing their best to report what they see as honestly as they can. Perhaps some professional journalists should take a lesson from the volunteers on Groklaw.

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