A lot of powerful companies would like to stop the infectious spread of open-source software. Microsoft has attacked the General Public License (GPL), which allows people to freely download, modify and redistribute open-source software; SCO Group is pursuing multi-billion dollar claims against IBM, Red Hat and Novell Inc. for their contributions to open source; and patent holders large and small have sued open-source users for infringement.
But it was Daniel Wallace, a 61-year-old retiree from Indiana, who almost did what those powerful companies have yet to do--pose a legal threat that could actually bring the burgeoning open-source movement to a halt.
"We took the position that, one, we're not pricing below our ultimate marginal cost and, two, we had no chance for recoupment by subsequent price hikes," McCauley says. "Once you let the software out there under the GPL, the cat's out of the bag; anybody else who has it is free to make as many copies as he or she wants. So there isn't any hope for recoupment."
Ultimately, those arguments swayed the court. Easterbrook pointed out that the antitrust laws are in place to protect competition generally, not to protect individual competitors. Therefore, Wallace could not win his case unless he could show that Linux hurt the market in general, even if it had hurt him.