Connecting the dots: GPL 3 for Solaris?

Sun Microsystems has said it's considering releasing Solaris, already an open-source project, under the General Public License (GPL) as well. And Sun has said it likes the direction of a proposed GPL 3, a new version 3 of that open-source license.

Connecting the dots could mean that Sun plans to use GPL 3 for Solaris; and Eweek reported this week that the server maker plans to do excactly that, citing sources close to the company.

Sun called the story incorrect but didn't rule out the possibility. "It just ain't so. This is primarily due to the fact that the terms of GPLv3 aren't final, thus making it impossible for us to commit to it. It would be like signing a contract with blanks to be filled in later," Rich Green, Sun's executive vice president of software, said on his blog Wednesday.

License selection isn't just a matter for lawyers and academics. One crucial factor is whether Solaris and Linux will be able to cross-pollinate or whether they'll remain separate pools of source code.

Linux is governed by the current GPL 2, and the top Linux programmers have expressed loathing for the proposed GPL 3. Fans of open source dinged Sun for choosing the Community Development and Distribution License (CDDL) for its first crack at open-source Solaris, and choosing the GPL 3 could lead to another round of Sun bashing.

Sun argues that it can't use the GPL 2 for OpenSolaris. In a Solaris licensing FAQ, the company said, "We needed an open-source license that allowed files released under the license to be linked with files released under other licenses," something the GPL prohibits.

Sun hasn't changed its rationale for not choosing GPL 2, according to Simon Phipps, the company's chief officer of open source.

Sun chose GPL 2 for making an open-source project out of Java, a second major software project at Sun. The company hasn't ruled out GPL 3 for that project, either, but couldn't commit to GPL 3 because it's not final, Phipps said on his blog.

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