The License for OpenSolaris

There was a piece in InformationWeek recently in the form of a Q&A —  7 Answers To Key Questions About Java’s Move To Open Source — where the writer asks and then answers his own questions about open source and Java. I’ve never seen this format for an editorial, but I suppose it could work. It can be confusing, though, if you don’t read carefully. Anyway, the section on the OpenSolaris license isn’t quite accurate. It reads:

Q. What’s the licensing model?

A. You can rule out the General Public License, which effectively bans proprietary additions or combinations. The Mozilla Public License is a step in the direction Sun wants to go. Changes to the source code come back to the community, but some proprietary uses are allowed. Sun’s license for open source Solaris allows compiled, executable Solaris code–not source code–to be included with proprietary code in a commercial product. It encourages developers to use Solaris in commercial products.

First, the license for OpenSolaris is the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL). The license, the redline diffs from the Mozilla Public License, the executive summary, and the detailed description are all here. Second, the CDDL is a file-based license, and you certainly can mix source files from different licenses — open or closed — to build executables as long as all the licenses involved are compatible. So, you can combine CDDL source files with proprietary source files and create a binary and ship it as a product. Sun’s Solaris Express is an example of that. Third, you can’t use Solaris in a commercial product because Solaris is itself a commercial product. You can, however, use the OpenSolaris source in a commercial product, and there are already several non-Sun distributions moving in this direction. Fourth, the license doesn’t encourage anything; it simply outlines all the possibilities for use of the source code. And finally, Jonathan addresses some of the other issues relating to the GPL.