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Sun retires one open-source license

Company is putting its Sun Industry Standards Source License to bed and hints there may be more on the way out.

Sun Microsystems is recommending that nobody use an open-source license it created, a small step in a broader push to pare back the number of such licenses.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based server and software company is retiring its Sun Industry Standards Source License, said Simon Phipps, director of Sun's Open Source Office. And he hinted there may be more retirements to come.

"It's actually a very fine license, designed to encourage forks and derived works to support the same file formats and standards as the original work. However, it's not been used by very many projects, and I don't think having it on Sun's list of preferred licenses is appropriate any longer," Phipps said in his blog on Friday. "We're taking a practical step today, the first of several I hope."

The Open Source Initiative, the organization that bestows official open-source status on licenses, has been trying to cut down on the proliferation of open-source licenses. Having too many licenses can result in islands of incompatible software that can't be intermixed and complicates legal reviews for those thinking of using or contributing to open-source projects.

Part of the nonproliferation effort involves encouraging companies to retire their own open-source licenses. Intel retired the Intel Open Source License in March.

Retiring the SISSL means that the software will be covered by just one license, the Lesser General Public License (LGPL) , according to the project's Web site.

"Projects currently using the SISSL under a dual-license scheme, such as, are dropping the SISSL and thus simplifying their license scheme as soon as the development cycle allows," the site said.

Sun prefers a different open-source license, the Community Development and Distribution License, which is a variant of the Mozilla Public License (MPL). The CDDL governs OpenSolaris and the Glassfish Java server software project.

Phipps' counterpart at rival Hewlett-Packard, Martin Fink, has called for a radical reduction in open-source licenses, which currently number more than 50. In particular, he's called on Sun in an August speech to scrap the CDDL. Phipps, though, dismissed Fink's tactic as "shallow and attention-grabbing rhetoric."