There was a story last night
regarding Sun's new OSI validated license, the CDDL. I moderated the discussion, so I couldn't comment on it then, but I felt some important things got missed and I needed to throw my voice against the angry mob.
Most of the posts I saw revolved around:
a) Why the CDDL was incompatible with the GPL
b) Why that fact would keep developers from contributing to Open Solaris
c) Sun was using this as a duplicitous attempt to garner free work from contributors without giving them anything in return.
Unfortunately, it's all crap. Well, b) and c), actually, and it's fortunate.
The CDDL and the GPL are incompatible, because the GPL is incompatible with almost every software license, including almost every OSI validated license. The GPL was intended to be incompatible in this way--the intent of almost every software license runs against what RMS wants, so this shouldn't be a surprise.
- The BSD template license is incompatible with the GPL.
- The Mozilla Public License is incompatible with the GPL.
- The Apache License is incompatible with the GPL.
Every license is incompatible with the GPL. The CDDL is no different and it's being singled out by the ignorant and the antagonists.
The real issue is that Open Solaris isn't being dual licensed under the GPL and the CDDL; this is a significant issue but one which was almost completely overlooked. That it isn't being dual licensed will mean some developers won't contribute, but I doubt it will impact it significantly. I would argue that the people who are so tied to the GPL that they won't work under a more restrictive license have no incentive to work on Solaris to begin with. Open Solaris is a boon to those who already use Solaris or to those who want to use Solaris but are prevented due to some incompatibility which could be resolved with access to source code.
That's what individuals get out of the CDDL; what started RMS on his quest was an inability to fix a problem that he had identified but the vendor wouldn't resolve. In this case, you can. Sun has made it open so that you can fix it and distribute it. You don't have the same rights as under the GPL, but you won't get most of those rights under any other license. The CDDL is very generous; it makes available plenty of code Sun will write and makes available the opportunity to use and modify that code, inside or outside of Open Solaris. That's powerful.
So the three issues harped on endlessly really aren't issues at all. I think Open Solaris should be dual licensed, but that's separate from what the mob has brought up. Another concern I saw in a Groklaw article was that the CDDL does not require that anyone identify what is covered by the CDDL and what is not (as the MPL does, which the CDDL is based on). So I could write code under the CDDL and include code not licensed under the CDDL and I have not responsibility to tell you which is which. That's dangerous. The CDDL gives patent protection for code under the CDDL but not for any code included which is not part of the CDDL. Dangerous again. In this world where a company doesn't even need infringement to send threatening letters and attempt to extort money...where big players have the money and endless patent portfolios to hammer a small business that has worked entirely in good faith...
In the end, Sun should alleviate concerns by identifying code and patents not covered by the CDDL; in this way, others would know what the restrictions were and their responsibilities if they re-use the code.
As for the rest...just FUD. Sun couldn't release Open Solaris solely as GPL: Solaris is dependent upon proprietary software that would be incompatible with the GPl, so they needed a less restrictive license which would allow them to include that code. It's that simple. The GPL would not have worked. They can dual license the source that they own, and they could do it anytime in the future. The sooner they do it the better, so that contributors do not submit code under the CDDL which would be an immense project to re-license (one would have to contact each contributor and have them agree to the re-license).
There are issues with the CDDL that need to be resolved, but (as often occurs) little intelligent was discussed on Slashdot; what bothered me more was that Groklaw even managed to delve into FUD rather than fact. In this I'm finding Groklaw not to be about either law or grokking and entirely about pushing their own agenda.
Beware attempts to demonize; you're more often find the demons doing the denouncing than being the victims of it.