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Sun Submits New Open License

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Sun Microsystems is building a foundation for
additional open source projects courtesy of a new public license.

The company wants to spark discussion but won’t tip its hand at any
product plans for its modified Mozilla license.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker submitted its
new Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL) to the Open
Source Initiative (OSI) last week.

Market watchers suggest the
submission could be the next step in Sun’s long-term plans to open the source code
to parts of its Solaris operating system. The company said it would begin submitting
parts of its Unix-based server OS sometime in the first half of 2005.

The OSI maintains the more than 60 public licenses including the GNU
General Public License (GPL), the Sun Industry Standards Source License
(SISSL) and the Sun Public License. Sun’s new open source license is
based on the Mozilla Public License (MPL), version 1.1.

Sun is no stranger to the Mozilla Public License, as Sun’s developer
platform NetBeans resides under the MPL. Russ
Castronovo, Sun spokesman, said the CDDL simplifies what actions need to be notified and
removes some restrictions that were specific to California State law,
but he declined to comment on what products would benefit from the CDDL.

“We are not making any links right now between this license and a
specific product. What we want to do is a lively discussion of this
particular license,” Castronovo told “We are
looking for feedback and commentary.”

Sun has been priding itself on the number of open source projects
that it has submitted; it is No. 2 behind the University of California
Berkeley. Recently, the company submitted Java-enabled projects like
Project Looking Glass and Java 3D. In addition to Solaris, Sun has also
been discussing opening up parts of its Java Enterprise System.

But opening Solaris only ranks as the second most controversial
product that Sun could open source beyond Java, itself. Castronovo
quantified the creation of the CDDL saying, “none of these changes
are game changers.”

Among the major shifts between the Mozilla license and Sun’s new CDDL is
adding an option to make covered software available under a specific
version of the license, rather than allowing the use of future license
versions. Sun said its concern was that the license steward could change
the terms of the license, “in ways that are not compatible with a
community’s (and the initial developer’s) values and objectives.”

Sun also took the MPL and narrowed the “patent peace” provisions to
cover only software released under the new license.

“We felt that this would make the license more acceptable to a
diverse community of contributors, whether large or small,” Sun said in
its submission. The company did however note that “patent peace” does
play an important role in open source licenses.

The CDDL also clarifies the definition of “modifications” to make it
easier for readers to understand what is covered by the license and what
is not.

Sun has also changed some of the wording around to make its CDDL
broad. The new license changes the use of the term “Code” to “Software” and
eliminates the definition of “Commercial Use”. Sun said it thought the
term “commercial” too misleading since software may be distributed for
both commercial and non-commercial purposes.

This article was originally published on

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