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Sun Submits New Open License

Sun Microsystems is building a foundation for additional open source projects courtesy of a new public 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 internetnews.com. "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. two 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.