Monthly Archives: November 2009

A simple world without license hell

Linux Journal reports about Sun re-licensing its past contributions to the xorg project to its default license, which is very short and simple:

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a
copy of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”),
to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation
the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense,
and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the
Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice (including the next
paragraph) shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the
Software.

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED “AS IS”, WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE SOFTWARE.

I wish most projects would use familiar licenses, instead of creating the license hell which already includes GPL compatible licenses, non GPL compatible licenses, apache style licenses, BSD/MIT licenses, private licenses (each company “must” have it’s own license) and a few others as categorized at http://www.opensource.org/licenses/category . And of course – dual or triple licensing which for most people doesn’t make their life easier. See how many licenses there are to compare: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_free_software_licenses

Sun’s re-licensing is a step forward for a simpler life for the xorg project. It’s usually hard enough to make sure you track all the copyright info of files in a project, and having a different license to each file just makes things harder.

This isn’t the first time Sun helps to solve a licensing issue. It began in 2005 with retiring the Sun Industry Standards Source License (SISSL) which led to remove Openoffice.org dual license. It continued (2005) to solving some license issues with Java that we couldn’t even have it in Debian’s non-free

In 2007 Sun started releasing most of java in GPL to help OpenJDK and IcedTea which now makes java available in main (lets not forget that there were a few free software projects already half way through like gcj, GNU classpath and others).

So – Thank you Sun for helping free software. I think that resolving licensing issues are very important for free software community, and for Sun itself by using free software. It’s specially important to fix such issues if and before the company changes owners.

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Filed under Debian GNU/Linux, Free software applications, Free software licenses