Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce Groklaw: the good, the bad, the ugly

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The website Groklaw, which waged a tireless campaign against the SCO Group after it filed a case against IBM in 2003, for "misappropriation of trade secrets, tortious interference, unfair competition and breach of contract, has decided it is time to put up the shutters.


There will be no more articles written on the site from May 16 as the case against SCO has come to the stage where the company is highly unlikely to do anything but dig its own grave as proceedings drag on.

The initial case also made allegations that IBM had made concentrated efforts to improperly destroy the economic value of UNIX, particularly UNIX on Intel, to benefit IBM's new Linux services business.

Later on, SCO filed a case against Novell, claiming ownership of the UNIX copyrights. The cases got more and more twisted and impenetrable as they went along, plumbing the bowels of US law, always a cesspit where the ugly often come out smelling of roses.

Groklaw, run by a paralegal named Pamela Jones, made a concerted effort to dissect the legal documents which the case threw up and gathered a big cheer squad around it, a wildly partisan mob that cheered as each disclosure that made SCO seem unlikely to prevail was published.

After nearly eight years, as Groklaw gets set to close shop and merely serve as a repository of information about the case, the reaction from the free and open source software community has been, by and large, positive.

There are legions who praise it as an outstanding work of journalism which it very definitely is not. It is and was a partisan blog which highlighted the anti-SCO case and made a good fist of doing so. Had it been a journalistic initiative, there would have been at least some effort to provide the other side of the case; this, Groklaw never did.

There are times when it is not necessary to provide the other side of the case to qualify as journalism; as the great Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk put it, if he were covering the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp, he would only write about the survivors and not give the SS point of view. Or if he had been clambering over bodies to report something like the Sabra-Shatila massacre, he would have no time for the Phalangists who murdered Palestinians at the camp under Israel's orders.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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