Whether or not Sun will migrate to the upcoming GPL version 3 license for OpenSolaris and Java is a question resulting in much speculation.
Currently OpenSolaris is licensed under Sun’s Common
Development and Distribution License (CDDL) license and Java is set to be licensed under GPL v2. GPL v3 , which is currently still under development adds new terms for digital rights management (DRM) and patents that could have wide ranging effects on licensees.
Sun Microsystems’ Chief Open Source Officer, Simon Phipps, explained that Sun
is picking the best license on a case-by-case basis for its software and
will continue to use the license that is most appropriate for the community
That said, some things aren’t going to change.
“I’ve got no intention of removing CDDL from OpenSolaris as it has been an
ideal license for OpenSolaris,” Phipps told internetnews.com. “The
CDDL is doing a fine job with that community. The role of the license is to
empower the innovator and the CDDL is demonstrably doing a good job of
Phipps noted that under CDDL, OpenSolaris has grown its user base and
contributions. At least five distributions are now available that
are based on OpenSolaris, which is facilitated by the CDDL.
Just because the CDDL is working doesn’t necessarily mean that Phipps
won’t consider adding another license to OpenSolaris. He commented that if
the community wants another license than he would consider it. In fact, Phipps noted that he is just starting to see a debate in the OpenSolaris community on whether to add GPL v3.
Currently Sun uses the GPL v2 license in some of its software applications, though Sun isn’t automatically going to migrate to v3 when it comes out.
Under the terms of the GPL v2, licensees “have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that version or of any later version published by the Free Software Foundation.”
However, if “the program does not specify a version number of this license,
you may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation.”
Some applications, notably the Linux
kernel and MySQL have
included the language “GPLv2 only,” as opposed to “GPLv2 or later,” implying
that an automatic changeover will not occur.
“I look at the ‘or any latter version clause’ and think it’s a really strange thing for any responsible enterprise to use in its licensing,” Phipps said. “That’s carte blanche to a successive body to act in a way that is against your interests.”
The fact that Sun is not using the “or any later version clause” does not imply any sort of criticism or lack of confidence in the GPL v3 process. Rather, it’s a matter of responsibility, according to Phipps.
Phipps argued that with Java, for example, there are five million developers that
rely on Java for their livelihood. “It would be absolutely irresponsible of me to license Java in a way that would endanger the livelihood of the developers working on it,” Phipps said.
Sun has been very active in the GPL v3 process since the beginning.
Phipps noted that he has every confidence that GPL v3 will be a license that
will be usable in some areas of Sun’s software business.
In the case of both OpenSolaris and Java, the respective communities will
debate on whether or not GPL v3 is right for them, though, in the
final analysis, the decision to actually use GPL v3 is up to Sun.
“Ultimately in each of those cases, Sun is the copyright holder and it is Sun
that has to take the action,” Phipps said. “So ultimately the decision is
“I’m not going to pick a license that is still not published,” Phipps said.
“Licenses give freedom to developers and I need to know that the license
chosen gives the developers that I’m serving and protecting the freedoms
that they desire.”