For non-proliferation's sake, Sun asks OSI to retire older open source license

Summary:There's a bit of news on the the open source license non-proliferation front.  Proliferation of incompatible open source licenses has balkanized the open source software community to a point that code isn't nearly as freely shareable as some people perceive it to be.

There's a bit of news on the the open source license non-proliferation front.  Proliferation of incompatible open source licenses has balkanized the open source software community to a point that code isn't nearly as freely shareable as some people perceive it to be.  As one of his first moves as Chief Open Source Officer at Sun, Simon Phipps has announced that the company is retiring the Sun Industry Standards Source License (SISSL) in favor of its more recently drafted (and Open Source Initiative-approved)  Common Development and Distribution License (the CDDL, pronounced "cuddle").  Wrote Phipps:

[The CDDL] renders continued cloning of the Mozilla Public License unnecessary. That license - CDDL - may have had a controversial first outing but in fact is a well-received license that makes any future attempt to build yet another MPL-clone vanity license much less likely.... We're taking a practical step today, the first of several I hope, and committing Sun to actually help with the issue [of open source license proliferation]. I'd encourage other companies to do the same.

The announcement by Phipps, which was released on his blog, also discusses the request he submitted to the Open Source Initiative to essentially decomission the SISSL license.  Phipps also siezed the opportunity to tar and feather IBM's Steve Mills and HP's Martin Fink for what Phipps apparently views asirresponsible rhetoric.

Elsewhere on the non-proliferation front, Larry Rosen, the man who literally wrote the book on Open Source Licensing, has now penned his own treatise on the issue of open source license proliferation and posted it on the Open Source Development Labs' Web site.  Wrote Rosen:

License proliferation has become an important problem because software under those different licenses cannot always be played consistently and compatibly everywhere....Imagine a world in which every word processing program created documents in its own internal format that could not be accessed directly by other word processing programs. This is not difficult to imagine. It is done on purpose even today by some proprietary software vendors—and it is enforced by their software licenses.

In his treatise, Rosen outlines some steps that can be taken to trim back the more than 60 open source licenses out there today to a more manageable number.  Leaving me with the sense that the problem of license proliferation is just as much an issue of semantics as it is an issue of anything else, the proposal centers on the standardization of terminology and the normalization of provisions, but also covers other thorny issues such as the impact of geography on open source licensing and how barrier presented to open source developers by patents can be addressed.

Topics: Open Source

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David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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