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Groklaw is an award-winning website covering legal news of interest to the free and open-source software community. Started as a blog on May 16 2003 by paralegal Pamela Jones ("PJ") at Radio UserLand, it has covered issues such as: the SCO-Linux lawsuits; the EU anti-trust case against Microsoft; and the standardization of Office Open XML.

Jones describes Groklaw as ..."a place where lawyers and geeks could explain things to each other and work together, so they'd understand each other's work better. When you have an idea you hope might work, and then to implement it, tweak it, and morph it, because other people show up and have ideas that are better than yours...and then have people you care about and admire tell you that what you are doing matters -- I can't think of a more satisfying feeling." [1]

Groklaw's name derives from Robert A. Heinlein's neologism 'grok', roughly meaning "to understand completely", which had previously entered geek slang.

Other topics covered, which are perceived as being important to a larger audience than just the free and open source community include Software Patents, DMCA, and the legally problematic actions of the RIAA against alleged illegal file sharers.

A key thread usually created by Groklaw members, under each article, provides the opportunity for minor errors to be corrected. Additionally, almost every article attracts an "Off Topic" thread, where a diverse range of topics are discussed.

Pamela Jones and some volunteer helpers do moderate Groklaw retrospectively to remove posts containing, for example, bad language, ad hominem attacks, and inflamatory subjects such as politics.


According to a 2003 interview with PJ, the blog was started to cover legal news and to explain it to the tech community. [2]

The first article was entitled The Grokster Decision - Ode To Thomas Jefferson. It was a serious article about the effect of P2P on the music industry, and the recent (at that time) court decision in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc., et al., Plaintiffs, vs. Grokster, Ltd., et al., Defendants, by Judge Steven Wilson in favor of the defendants. The article also covered the previous Napster decision, and why it was different causing the Napster system to be shut down. The article included a quote from Thomas Jefferson, and references to David Boies, who was Napster's attorney.

The second post on May 17 2003 also covered legal issues - it addressed the then new SCO v. IBM lawsuit, and was titled SCO Falls Downstairs, Hitting its Head on Every Step. It criticized Caldera Systems for the way they were handling the suit outside of court, and the article included quotes from Bruce Perens, Richard Stallman, Steve Ballmer, and Linus Torvalds. The article ended with this paragraph:

David Boies has agreed to represent SCO. I am trying to remind myself that our legal system is predicated on lawyers sometimes representing people they don't personally admire, and the system really does depend on someone being willing to take on unpopular clients. I know Boies doesn't use email, or at least he didn't the last time I checked. So maybe he doesn't quite get the tech ... ah, hang it all, there's no way around it: I feel bad he's chosen to represent them, especially after I posted an Ode singing his praises, and I hope he loses.

The blog soon became popular with the Free Software and Open Source communities as well as others, and attracted a community of volunteers and commenters of its own. Its popularity caused it to outgrow Radio Userland, and on November 22, 2003, the standalone Groklaw website, hosted by ibiblio and running Geeklog software, was up and running.[3]

Main focusEdit

Template:SCO Controversy The main focus of Jones's writing became the Caldera Systems v. IBM litigation (note that Caldera Systems changed its company name to The SCO Group during this time). Over time, other issues have been explored at Groklaw, including intellectual property and patent issues (for example, Microsoft IP claims against Linux, and the drafting of the GPL version 3). Groklaw is known for its contributors' ability to explain complex legal issues in simple terms and the research used in putting together articles. Additionally, members of the Groklaw community attend court hearings[4] and interview movers and shakers in the software/IP world. [5]

The site has become a community effort. While Groklaw's owner and primary contributor, Pamela Jones, understands law, she is not a programmer. Many of her readers are techies, however, and when technical issues arise, they are able to provide considerable and productive comments on the site. This has enabled Groklaw to solicit guest commentary on a variety of issues, such as:

  • Linux Kernel coding practices
  • C Language programming
  • Operating systems programming
  • Operating systems history
  • Standards Organizations

Each of these issues appeared to have some application to the SCO v. IBM case, and most have been revisited many times. Additional topics have included later lawsuits by The SCO Group against Daimler Chrysler, Autozone, and Novell, the countersuit by Red Hat, and their implications as well as Microsoft's attempt to fast track OOXML as an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard.


Groklaw has been cited by the attorneys for several firms in law journal articles. It has also won several awards:

  • 2008 Prix Ars Electronica - Category: Digital Communities - Honorable Mention [6]
  • 2008 The Award for Projects of Social Benefit - The Free Software Foundation (FSF)[7]
  • 2007 Knowledge Masters Award for Innovation - Knowledge Trust and the Louis Round Wilson Academy [8]
  • 2007 Best FUD Fighter - Google-O'Reilly Open Source Awards[9]
  • 2005 Best News Site - ConsortiumInfo*.org - Pamela Jones/Groklaw: Best Community Site or Blog (Non-Profit)
  • 2005 Best Blogger of the Year - Dana Blankenhorn, Corante[10]
  • 2004 Best Website of 2004 - The Inquirer[11]
  • 2004 Best Independent Tech Blog - TechWeb Network: Readers Choice Award
  • 2004 Best Nontechnical or Community Website - Linux Journal: Editors' Choice Award
  • 2003 Best News Site - Editor's Choice Winner

Editorial stanceEdit

Groklaw is the personal creation of one person, Pamela Jones, and Groklaw publishes articles (both news and opinion) from a self-described pro-FOSS, anti-FUD perspective.[12]


Jones and some volunteer helpers do moderate the comments on Groklaw retrospectively to remove posts containing, for example, bad language, ad hominem attacks, and inflamatory subjects such as politics. While Groklaw articles meticulously follow SCO's litigation activities, they are accompanied by reader-submitted comments that are "overwhelmingly pro-Linux and anti-SCO."[13]

Media controversyEdit

SCO executives Darl McBride and Blake Stowell have claimed that Jones works for IBM.[14] Jones has denied this allegation,[15] as did IBM in a court filing.[16]

During an SCO conference call on April 13, 2005, McBride claimed "The reality is the web site is full of misinformation, including the people who are actually running it" when talking about Groklaw, adding also "What I would say is that it is not what it is purported to be".[17] McBride told reporters that SCO was investigating the identity of Pamela Jones.[13]

During the first week of May 2005, Maureen O'Gara, a writer for Linux Business News, wrote an exposé aiming to unmask Pamela Jones. The article included alleged but unverified personal information about Jones[18] including a photo of Jones' supposed house and purported addresses and phone numbers for Jones and her mother.[19] After a flood of emailed complaints to the publisher, lobbying of the site's advertisers, and claims of a denial-of-service attack launched against the Sys-Con domain,[20][21] Linux Business News' publisher Sys-Con issued a public apology,[22] and dropped O'Gara and her LinuxGram column. G2 Computer Intelligence, a news publication company owned by O'Gara [23], appears in bankruptcy filings as a creditor[24] of SCO Operations, a subsidiary of The SCO Group.

On April 4, 2008, Jason Matusow, a Microsoft employee accused Groklaw of being "a website setup by IBM" in a blog posting [25]. He posted a retraction several hours later, however stated that it was his belief that this was the case, however that comments to his blog made him think that he should be careful about his assertions. Jones has always denied such claims. [26]

Additional projectsEdit

Anticipating further legal threats against GNU, Linux, and the free software community, Pamela Jones launched Grokline, a Unix ownership timeline project, in May, 2004. [27] One notable result of the Groklaw/Grokline effort was obtaining and publishing the 1994 settlement in USL v. BSDi, which for over a decade had been sealed by the parties. [28] The document was obtained through a California Open Access statute (the university being a publicly funded institution is required by law to make almost all of its documents public), and the release of the settlement answered many questions as to the ownership of the Unix intellectual property.

The Linux documentation project Grokdoc wiki was started in 2004, with the stated goal "to create a useful manual on basic tasks that new users will find simple and clear and easy to follow." [29] It has not been very active.

Groklaw has also extensively covered patent problems with software and hardware, use of the DMCA against free software ideals, Open standards, DRM, GPLv3, and published The Daemon, the GNU & the Penguin, a series of articles by Peter Salus covering the history of Unix, Linux and the GNU project.

The technical webmaster is known as MathFox. (Peter Roozemaal) [30] [31]

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

References Edit

Template:Reflistde:Groklaw nl:Groklaw no:Groklaw sv:Groklaw

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