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Sun to release OpenSolaris under GPL version 3


Sun is going to add the upcoming GNU General Public License version 3 (GPLv3) to OpenSolaris in addition to its current CDDL (Common Development and Distribution License). This may give OpenSolaris a much needed kick in the pants.

I have never liked the CDDL. Like many other open source licenses, which are based on the MPL (Mozilla Public License), the CDDL artificially restricts the intellectual freedom that makes open source such an incredible powerhouse of software development.

As Larry Rosen, a partner in the technology law firm Rosenlaw & Einschlag and author of “Open-Source Licensing: Software Freedom and Intellectual Property Law,” told me a while back, “My biggest concern about the proliferation of reciprocal license such as the CDDL is that we end up not with one commons of free software but multiple islands of it that can’t be interchanged for creating derivative works. We get some of the benefits of the open-source paradigm but — as the Apache foundation is so fond of reminding us — reciprocal licenses prevent free software from being available to absolutely everyone for modification and reuse.”

He’s right, of course. What I find even more disturbing is that the CDDL has been followed by many other MPL-based licenses — like Scalix, Socialtext, SugarCRM, and Zimbra — that add even more restrictions. For example, the SugarCRM Public License, has now added a logo to its license. If you write an application based on Sugar’s code, Sugar insists that you display in your user interface a 106 x 23 pixel logo that states “Powered by SugarCRM.” This new, and I think annoying, trend is dubbed “badgeware.”

Thankfully, though, Sun hasn’t done this, and they’re now backing off a bit from the CDDL by placing OpenSolaris under the GPLv3, as well. This can only be good news for OpenSolaris and its developers.

This will enable programmers to share code among OpenSolaris and other GPLv3 open-source software projects. While it still looks very doubtful that Linux will go GPLv3, we can be certain that the Free Software Foundation Gnu Project’s 5,000 plus programs will be available under the GPLv3. In addition, the Samba Team has announced that it will be making its popular Samba CIFS (Common Internet File System) software GPLv3.

What all this adds up to is that by going GPLv3, OpenSolaris is building bridges to the other open-source islands. This can only benefit both OpenSolaris and the other GPLv3 programs.

At the same time, having a major operating system under GPLv3 will help with the acceptance of this revised license. I have long worried that the GPLv3 would be dead on arrival. Now, however, I’m sure that it will become a major open-source license.

I still believe that the GPLv2, thanks to the loyal support of Linus Torvalds and the other Linux core developers, will continue to be the single most important open-source license. I now think, however, that the GPLv3 will soon become a strong number two.

A version of this story first appeared in Linux-Watch.

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