Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

Fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) is a tactic of rhetoric and fallacy used in sales, marketing, public relations, politics and propaganda. FUD is generally a strategic attempt to influence public perception by disseminating negative and dubious/false information designed to undermine the credibility of their beliefs. An individual firm, for example, might use FUD to invite unfavorable opinions and speculation about a competitor’s product; to increase the general estimation of switching costs among current customers; or to maintain leverage over a current business partner who could potentially become a rival.

In context, a number of companies perceiving that Linux, as a free alternative to their own software and systems, was something against which they could not compete. These companies have used FUD as a weapon of last resort to try to keep their own businesses alive. In particular with regards to the case of SCO .vs. IBM, SCO’s CEO is said to have made the following statements;

  • “IBM has taken our valuable trade secrets and given them away to Linux,”
  • “We’re finding… cases where there is line-by-line code in the Linux kernel that is matching up to our UnixWare code”
  • “…unless more companies start licensing SCO’s property… [SCO] may also sue Linus Torvalds… for patent infringement.”
  • “Both companies [IBM and Red Hat] have shifted liability to the customer and then taunted us to sue them.”
  • “We have the ability to go to users with lawsuits and we will if we have to, “It would be within SCO Group’s rights to order every copy of AIX [IBM’s proprietary UNIX] destroyed,”
  • “As of Friday, June 13 [2003], we will be done trying to talk to IBM, and we will be talking directly to its customers and going in and auditing them. IBM no longer has the authority to sell or distribute AIX and customers no longer have the right to use AIX software”
  • “If you just drag this out in a typical litigation path, where it takes years and years to settle anything, and in the meantime you have all this uncertainty clouding over the market…”
  • “Users are running systems that have basically pirated software inside, or stolen software inside of their systems, they have liability.”

It has since been established that these statements are simply a doomed competitor trying to employ FUD as a last-ditch attempt to stay afloat.

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