License stand-down begins

License stand-down begins

Summary: The next step is harder, namely to merge some of these corporate licenses

TOPICS: Oracle

The Sun set on SISSL, the Sun Industry Standards Source License. Hopefully this is just the first announcement of many.

For any commercial open source definition to work, we need some rational licensing, licensing you don't need a lawyer to figure out. I wrote about this back in March, after OSI announced in Boston during February it would work to cut the number of licenses.

The Sun announcement reveals there's much that can be done internally to make this work. Sun chose to support its newer CDDL license instead of the older SISSL. Companies that offer multiple open source licenses should be choosing one as a first step.

The next step is harder, namely to merge some of these corporate licenses. Stephen Shankland's story on the Sun decision reveals just how hard this will be. OpenOffice, to which Sun has made many contributions, will now be governed by the LPGL, now that SISSL is no more.

Simon Phipps_1.jpg

But when Martin Fink of H-P suggested recently that Sun should drop the CDDL, Sun's Simon Phipps (left), who announced the SISSL retirement on his blog, went all vershizzle, dismissing it as  "shallow and attention-grabbing rhetoric".

Maybe it was. I don't know.

But a lot of licenses need to be retired.

As OSI outside counsel Laura Majerus told Phipps (and as he repeated on retiring SISSL), " reducing needless diversity and simplifying license choice is a key objective of the OSI." It's good that Phipps has his feelings out in the open about this. The next step is to set those feelings aside and get on with the work. That's something everyone in the open source licensing world can contribute to.

Topic: Oracle

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  • About Time Too

    I will make no apology for beginning this talkback with a few words I used before in response to the ZDNet story; Open Source is Another Trademark Issue

    Anything less than the standard set by a GNU-GPL license should set alarm bells ringing. Because anything other than a GPL distribution is less than the best, and this means you have to read every clause, and between the lines of all the print - big and small - to be sure that you are not being sold a pig-in-a-poke. In essence, anything less than a GPL means that the distributor (commercial or non-commercial) is trying to retain some control over your software. Even with software such as GNU Linux someone, somewhere, usually retains some kind of moral (?) authority over the central direction (and, therefore the standard, or reference, version) of the software. In the case of Linux it's, er, someone called Litmus Tea-Bags (?) - something like that anyway.

    Anyone trying to maintain a higher level of control is, according to OS folklore, a control freak. That is a little hard, there are good reasons why a higher level of control over the direction of any central OS software's development, and core distributions, can enhance OS software - because it becomes possible to defend the trading name of the best OS projects and it becomes possible to further the cause of OS by ensuring the promotion of core-team cross-OS-project developments (think: LAMP). It also stops competition between commercial companies undermining s useful standard (think: the recent spat between Sun and IBM over Java) - though the downside here is that, without pressure to keep them honest, a commercial licensor will always be tempted to 'realize the value' of standards ownership...

    Linus Torvalds has himself, of course, become a recent convert to this thinking - requesting sponsorship to Trade Mark the Linux name - in order to defend the excellent work done by the Linux team - and to provide a launchpad for future cross-industry-cross-OS-biosphere developments.

    Reducing the number of OS licences is a long overdue rationalization and standaization that will cut down the workload of many hard-pressed CIOs. However, the same advice still applies:
    - BUYER BEWARE; and
    - Read the #^"&$*! contract!
    Stephen Wheeler