Sun License to Give Developers Patent-Use Rights

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-01-19 Print this article Print

Sources say the company plans to use the CDDL (Common Development and Distribution License) for Open Solaris, and that it's considering open-sourcing its Java Enterprise System under the CDDL as well.

The Open Source Initiative has approved Sun Microsystems CDDL (Common Development and Distribution License), paving the way for the Santa Clara, Calif., company to proceed with its plan to release its Solaris operating system as an open-source project. But if Sun does use the CDDL for its Open Solaris project, as is expected, one of this licenses benefits for developers and the open-source community is that "with the CDDL, if you read it carefully, Sun will convey all of its patents to the community, and not just 500 like IBM recently did, " a source close to the company told eWEEK. Sun also is considering open-sourcing its JES (Java Enterprise System) under the CDDL. "Everything that is built at Sun would fall under the CDDL" if that happened, the source said.
Full details on Open Solaris, including its license and the community development and governance models, could be released as early as next week.
Sun also has moved up its release plans for Solaris 10, which will be available Jan. 31 as a free download from Sun will begin preinstalling Solaris on Sun systems in February and is working to do the same with its OEMs. Click here to read about Suns upcoming Solaris 10 operating system. Sun submitted the CDDL license to the OSI for approval in early December, but declined to say whether it intended to use that license for its Open Solaris project. A Sun spokesperson also declined on Wednesday to say what the CDDL will be used for, but several sources close to the company have confirmed to eWEEK that Sun plans to use the CDDL for Open Solaris, even though this move may be unpopular among some in the open-source and Linux communities. They say Suns first priority is to protect its partners and customer investments rather than to please those in the community who want it to be GPL-compatible. In fact, Claire Giordano, a member of Suns CDDL team, said in a letter accompanying the submission that "like the Mozilla Public License, the CDDL is not expected to be compatible with the GPL, since it contains requirements that are not in the GPL [GNU General Public License]." "Thus, it is likely that files released under the CDDL will not be able to be combined with files released under the GPL to create a larger program," Giordano said in the letter. Sun officials have told eWEEK that there are many OSI-approved licenses that are not GPL-compatible, including the Mozilla Public License, on which the CDDL is largely based. "Its basically the Mozilla license with the one clause struck, that gives the ability to supersede the license. Its an honestly good license, which Sun will also be donating to the community, unlike what IBM did with Common Public License (CPL), which is a copyrighted IBM license that leaves IBM entirely in charge," the source said. "MPL is by far the most popular license out there—remember, Firefox is built on it—so any allusion that its not as good as GPL is hooey, and generally a comment made out of fear by folks who realize you cant mix the code," the source said. But some open-source developers are angered by the CDDL move because Sun has already integrated some GPL technologies into Solaris. Now, they said, Sun merely wants to stop its own technologies licensed under the CDDL from getting into GPL-licensed software projects. "I suspect Sun would be overjoyed if open-source software continued to flourish, but Linux somehow vanished from the scene," said Con Zymaris, CEO of Cybersource Pty. Ltd., a Linux and open-source solutions company in Melbourne, Australia. "I will now have to choose between supporting development and adding momentum to Open Solaris or to Linux. I will choose Linux. Our customers have," he said. Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds also has weighed in, telling eWEEK he thinks that, from Suns perspective, the CDDL had to be incompatible with the GPL. Sun "wants to keep a moat against the barbarians at the gate," he wrote in an e-mail interview. Torvalds said he does not expect to see developers clamoring to start playing with that source code. "Nobody wants to play with a crippled version [of Solaris]. I, obviously, do believe that theyll have a hard time getting much of a community built up," Torvalds said. "I think there are parallels with the Java well control the process model. I personally think that their problem is that they want to control the end result too much, and because of that they wont get any of the real advantages of open source." One of the sources close to Sun told eWEEK, "Frankly, I was stunned by Linus comments bashing Solaris. [It] seemed a tad religious to me, when I thought we were all pushing open source." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.
Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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