Screenshot of Groklaw on June 18, 2008
Type of site
Available inEnglish
OwnerPamela Jones
Created byPamela Jones
LaunchedMay 16, 2003; 21 years ago (2003-05-16)
Current statusOnline

Groklaw is a website that covered legal news of interest to the free and open source software community. Started as a law blog on May 16, 2003, by paralegal Pamela Jones ("PJ"), it covered issues such as the SCO-Linux lawsuits, the EU antitrust case against Microsoft, and the standardization of Office Open XML.

Jones described 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".[1]

Its name derives from "grok", roughly meaning "to understand completely", which had previously entered geek slang.

Other topics covered included software patents, DMCA, the actions of the RIAA against alleged illegal file sharers, and actions against free and open software such as Android and Linux.


According to a 2003 interview with Jones, 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 about the effect of P2P on the music industry, and the then-recent court decision in MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., by Judge Steven Wilson in favor of the defendants. It also covered the previous Napster decision, and why it was different, causing Napster 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 – the SCO v. IBM lawsuit – entitled "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 included quotes from Bruce Perens, Richard Stallman, Steve Ballmer, and Linus Torvalds. It ended:

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 and others, and attracted a community of volunteers and commenters. 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 focus

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The main focus of Jones's writing became the Caldera Systems v. IBM litigation (Caldera Systems changed its name to The SCO Group during this time). Other issues were explored, including intellectual property and patent issues (for example, Microsoft IP claims against Linux, and the drafting of the GPL version 3). Groklaw was known for its contributors' ability to explain complex legal issues in simple terms and the research used in putting together articles. Members of the Groklaw community attended court hearings[4] and interviewed movers and shakers in the software/IP world.[5]

The site became a community effort. While Jones understood law, she was not a programmer. Many readers were techies, however, and when technical issues arose they provided relevant comments.[citation needed] This enabled Groklaw to solicit guest commentary on issues such as:

Each of these issues appeared to have some application to the SCO v. IBM case[citation needed], and most were revisited many times. Additional topics included later lawsuits by The SCO Group against Daimler Chrysler, Autozone, and Novell, the countersuit by Red Hat, and their implications and Microsoft's attempt to fast track OOXML as an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard.[6]


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

Editorial stance

Groklaw was the personal creation of Jones, and it published articles (both news and opinion) from a self-described pro-FOSS, anti-FUD perspective.[15]

While articles meticulously followed SCO's litigation activities, they were accompanied by reader-submitted comments that were "overwhelmingly pro-Linux and anti-SCO."[16]

Media controversy

Jones was widely respected by journalists and people inside the Linux community. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols wrote, "Jones has made her reputation as a top legal IT reporter from her work detailing the defects with SCO's case against IBM and Linux. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that her work has contributed enormously to everyone's coverage of SCO's cases."[17]

Despite the high regard of Jones' peer journalists and the Linux community (or possibly in part because of it) [citation needed], a number of prominent attacks against Groklaw and Jones occurred. These attacks were documented and addressed in detail, on Groklaw and other web sites and also in court as part of the SCO litigation [citation needed].

During the first week of May 2005, Maureen O'Gara, writing in Linux World, wrote an exposé claiming to unmask Jones. Two weeks before O'Gara's publication, McBride said that SCO was investigating Jones' identity.[16] The article included alleged, but unverified, personal information about Jones,[18] including a photo of Jones' supposed house and purported addresses and telephone numbers for Jones and her mother.[19] After a flood of 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 said they dropped O'Gara and her LinuxGram column. Despite this assertion, O'Gara remained with Sys-Con; as of 2009, she is the Virtualization News Desk editor at Sys-Con Media, who describe her as "[o]ne of the most respected technology reporters in the business" and has her work published in multiple magazines owned by Sys-Con Media.[23]

SCO executives Darl McBride and Blake Stowell also denigrated Jones, and claimed that she worked for IBM.[24] Jones denied this allegation,[25] as did IBM in a court filing.[26] During an SCO conference call on April 13, 2005, McBride said, "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". Later developments in the court cases showed that McBride's statements to the press regarding the SCO litigation had limited credibility; very few such statements were ever substantiated and most were shown to be false. For example, McBride claimed that SCO owned the copyrights to UNIX, and SCO filed suit to try to enforce these claims.[27] The outcome went against McBride's claims. The jury found that SCO had not purchased these copyrights.[28][29] SCO appealed this ruling and lost.[30] McBride also made a claim to the press that there was a "mountain of code" misappropriated to create Linux.[31] When SCO finally presented their evidence of infringement, which centered on nine lines of error name and number similarities in the file errno.h, Judge Wells famously said "Is this all you've got?"[32] Professor Randall Davis of MIT later made a convincing demonstration that there were no elements of UNIX which might be copyright protectable present in the Linux source code.[33]

Additional projects

Anticipating further legal threats against GNU, Linux, and the free software community, Jones launched Grokline, a Unix ownership timeline project, in May 2004.[34] 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.[35] The document was obtained through a California freedom of information statute (the University of California, 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."[36]

Groklaw 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,[37] a series of articles by Peter Salus covering the history of Unix, Linux and the GNU project.

It covered the Oracle v. Google in which Oracle alleged that Google's Android platform infringed copyrights and patents related to Java.[38]

Later history

In January 2009, Groklaw entered a second phase, focusing on consolidation and cleanup of the legal history collected on the site.

In April 2010, Groklaw was selected by the Library of Congress for its web archival project, in the category of Legal Blogs.[39]

On April 9, 2011, Jones announced that Groklaw would stop publishing new articles on May 16, 2011, its 8th anniversary, as it had accomplished its original mission of revealing the truth behind the SCO lawsuits.[40]

On May 16, 2011, Jones reaffirmed her desire to step down from writing daily articles and announced that the new editor would be Mark Webbink.[41]

Subsequent to this decision, new patent and copyright based attacks on the Android operating system led to Jones resuming an editorial role, and along with Mark Webbink she moderated and edited the site.

On August 20, 2013, a final article appeared on Groklaw, explaining that due to pervasive government monitoring of the Internet, there could no longer be an expectation of the sort of privacy online that was necessary to collaborate on sensitive topics. Citing the closure of Lavabit earlier that month, Jones wrote "I can't do Groklaw without your input.... and there is now no private way, evidently, to collaborate." and "What I do know is it's not possible to be fully human if you are being surveilled 24/7... I hope that makes it clear why I can't continue. There is now no shield from forced exposure."[42]

During 2020, the site was intermittently unavailable.[43] As of 2022, the home page and parts of the content are still available.

See also


  1. ^ "Harald Welte and Groklaw announced as winners of the FSF's 2007 annual free software awards — Free Software Foundation — working together for free software". Archived from the original on 2015-03-18. Retrieved 2015-07-26. Harald Welte and Groklaw announced as winners of the FSF's annual free software awards
  2. ^ Interview with PJ by Michael J. Jordan of Linux Online Archived 2010-05-05 at the Wayback Machine, July 31, 2003, (Copy at Groklaw)
  3. ^ "Groklaw article "SCO Tried to Gag Groklaw in 2004"". Archived from the original on 2007-07-13. Retrieved 2007-11-24.
  4. ^ Groklaw article "Reports from the Hearing" Archived 2010-05-05 at the Wayback Machine, November 16, 2007.
  5. ^ Groklaw article "BBC's Ashley Highfield, interviewed by Sean Daly -- 'The Solution Is To Move Beyond DRM'" Archived 2010-05-05 at the Wayback Machine, November 18, 2007 @ 10:24 PM EST
  6. ^ Groklaw article "OOXML: An Obscured Business Suggestion & Microsoft Fined Again" Archived 2014-10-23 at the Wayback Machine, February 27, 2008 @
  7. ^ "6th Annual ABA Journal Blawg 100". Archived from the original on 2018-12-21. Retrieved 2012-11-29.
  8. ^ "Transparency Activist, Public Domain Scholar, Legal Blogger, and Imprisoned E-Voting Researcher Win Pioneer Awards". 19 October 2010. Archived from the original on 2020-08-01. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  9. ^ Top 200 Tech Blogs: The Datamation 2009 List
  10. ^ "Harald Welte and Groklaw announced as winners of the FSF's annual free software awards" (Press release). Free Software Foundation. 2008-03-19. Archived from the original on 2015-03-18. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  11. ^ "The Knowledge Trust SM Innovation Award for furthering the creative and innovative use of, and balanced access to, the world's recorded knowledge" (Press release). The Knowledge Trust. 2007-09-20. Archived from the original on 2011-07-28. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  12. ^ "Google Code Blog: Drum Roll... The winners of the 2007 Google-O'Reilly Open Source Awards are". 25 July 2007. Archived from the original on 2010-07-13. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
  13. ^ Blogger of the Year. Moore's Lore: Archived 2007-08-14 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ INQ presents gongs of the year – The INQUIRER
  15. ^ "Groklaw Mission statement". Archived from the original on 2010-05-05. Retrieved 2007-08-16.
  16. ^ a b Bob Mims (2005-04-14). "SCO losses up, revenues not". Salt Lake Tribune.
  17. ^ "Yes, there is a PJ".
  18. ^ Interview with Fuat Kircaali, CEO of Sys-Con Archived 2006-08-29 at the Wayback Machine, Free Software Magazine. Intimigation Archived 2010-05-05 at the Wayback Machine, Groklaw.
  19. ^ "SCO's Legal Wrangles Take an Odd, Personal Turn". 2005-05-11. Retrieved 2007-11-24.
  20. ^ On Sys-Con and LinuxWorld.Com DoS (Again) Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine, Blog Home For Steve Suehring, 2005-05-14. Tragic End to Jones-O'Gara Feud Archived 2007-10-09 at the Wayback Machine See also Kircaali interview.
  21. ^ Daniel Lyons (2005-11-14). "Who is Pamela Jones?". Forbes., a sidebar to Lyons' "Attack of the Blogs" in the same issue.
  22. ^ To Our Valued Readers, Linux Business News, posted 13 May 2005 (archived 16 May 2005 at the Internet Archive; message appears near top in box with a light yellow background)
  23. ^ "Maureen O'Gara @ SYS-CON MEDIA". Official website for Sys-Con Media. Retrieved 2008-11-22.
  24. ^ Primary court document "Exhibit 18" filed by SCO 2/10/2006 Archived 2014-04-22 at the Wayback Machine. Face to Face: McBride outlines SCO's lawsuit strategy Archived 2006-05-10 at the Wayback Machine, Writing Linux History: Groklaw's Role in the SCO Controversy Archived 2006-08-20 at the Wayback Machine,
  25. ^ Letter to the Editor: No IBM-Groklaw connection[dead link], PJ Responds to the Smear Campaign Against Groklaw Archived 2010-05-05 at the Wayback Machine, Groklaw.
  26. ^ "Primary court document "Exhibit 19" filed by IBM 2/10/2006" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2006-09-17.
  27. ^ "Novell claims it, not SCO, owns Unix copyrights". Archived from the original on 2014-11-29. Retrieved 2013-05-03.
  28. ^ "SCO loses again: jury says Novell owns UNIX SVRX copyrights". 30 March 2010.
  29. ^ "Jury Verdict, PDF of court document" (PDF).
  30. ^ "10th Circuit Affirms in All Respects – Novell, Not SCO, Owns the Copyrights, etc".
  31. ^ "SCO puts disputed code in the spotlight". Archived from the original on 2013-06-28.
  32. ^ "First Report from the Hearing – Updated 4Xs – Wells to SCO: "Is This All You've Got?"".
  33. ^ "Dr. Randall Davis's 2nd Declaration – I Found No Identical or Similar Code".
  34. ^ home page Archived 2007-10-24 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ The 1994 USL-Regents of UCal Settlement Agreement Archived 2010-05-05 at the Wayback Machine, Groklaw, 28 Nov 2004
  36. ^ Grokdoc Main Page Archived 2007-08-24 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ Peter H. Salus, The Daemon, the GNU & The Penguin (Reed Media Services, September 1, 2008; ISBN 978-0-9790342-3-7)
  38. ^ "Oracle America, Inc. v. Google, Inc". Groklaw. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  39. ^ Archived 2010-05-05 at the Wayback Machine Groklaw article
  40. ^ "Groklaw Articles Ending on May 16th". Groklaw. April 9, 2011. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  41. ^ "As of Today, It's Mark Webbink's Groklaw 2.0". Groklaw. May 16, 2011. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
  42. ^ "Forced Exposure". Groklaw. August 20, 2013. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
  43. ^ "Wayback Machine capture chart of for 2020". Archived from the original on 12 October 2003. Retrieved September 15, 2022.