The law has been a key ingredient in corporate competition for generations.
Big companies always have better lawyers than small ones. When they dont they hire the other guys lawyers away.
This is especially true in the world of contracts. Its the letter of the contract, and what you can convince a judge lies behind it, that defines every deal.
And so the contract law era has come to open source, with IBM trying to liberate its 500 patents without unilaterally disarming in the face of big rivals, and Sun trying to do the same thing on behalf of 1,600 claimed under Solaris.
As David Berlind explains today, at issue are two rival contracts, both alike in dignity, in fair cyberspace, where we lay our scene.
IBM, the Romeo of our story, uses the broad definition of the OSI, not the specific language of GNUs General Public License. Sun Solaris, the fair Juliet, newly open source and untouched in that way, is bound by the Common Development and Distribution License, approved by OSI but not, as Bob Sutor of IBM notes, nearly the same thing.
Put down that lawyer, says IBM. Never, says Suns Scott McNealy. Both claim fealty to open source, but both still want it tied down with contract law, designed to protect their families interests.
Our David Berlind (replacing the late Alistair Cooke as the narrator) says that Gentoo can act as the nurse in this case and bring the two together. But is he just being a romantic? Can we simply code and load, then file the details away in a Gentoo knowledge base?
Youll have to read the fine print to know. And most open source developers I know would much rather take poison, or the knife, than spend a night reading fine print. (Or Shakespeare, for that matter.)
Here at ZDNet, and in TalkBack, well stay on top of it all. The play, after all, is the thing by which well catch the conscience of the King.
But thats another story.