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Sun Microsystems GNU is Not Unix Patents

Sun's Patent and Licensing Practices Examined 265

RMX writes "Groklaw has an excellent analysis of some Patent Questions About the CDDL. For /.ers who don't like reading a lot, the most important point is that 'it would be possible for developers co-developing Open Solaris to someday find themselves blocked from distributing code by a Microsoft patent infringement claim, while leaving Sun, because of their cross-licensing deal with Microsoft, free to continue to distribute the contributed code.' The article also notes that 'The short answer why [some particular clause] is needed in the CDDL and not the GPL is that Linus Torvalds has not just entered into a cross-licensing arrangement with Microsoft, the relevant details of which are not public'. Makes you wonder what those relevant details are?" And reader rudy_wayne writes "David Berlind's column Will Sun's 1600 patents suck the life out of Linux? talks about Sun's open sourcing of Solaris 10 and the problems that occur due to the fact that so many open source licenses are incompatible with each other. One of his most important points is 'when a large company -- IBM, Sun, or anyone else-- donates code to the open source community with a one-off license, like the Eclipse Public License (IBM) or the CDDL (Sun) it gives those companies a way to donate their code to the open source community, which in turn can enhance it to the benefactor's advantage, without that code leaking into a competitor's product (with a non-reciprocating license) in such a way that it can be used against the benefactor.'"
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Sun's Patent and Licensing Practices Examined

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  • RTFA (Score:3, Funny)

    by joNDoty ( 774185 ) on Saturday January 29, 2005 @12:10AM (#11511291)
    How am I supposed to RTFA when the summary alone fills my entire browser window!
    • Re:RTFA (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Generally users on slashdot are smarter then this....

      To read the article, you simply need to point your cursor (The white arrow shaped thing on your screen) on top of the link.

      If you have done this correctly, the cursor arrow should change into a hand. If it is not a hand, try moving the cursor closer to the link.

      Once you have successfully moved over the link, press your left mouse button once. The article should come up for you to begin loading.

      If you have any further questions please email us at sup
      • I have no arrow, just a block where text is black-on-white, and it certainly doesn't turn into a hand, you insensitive clod.
    • by scum-e-bag ( 211846 ) on Saturday January 29, 2005 @12:59AM (#11511554) Homepage Journal
      The summary demonstrates just how complex and extremely difficult the whole IP issue is to comprehend. This demonstrated complexity is another reason why temporary granting of monopolies through the use of IP laws should be limited to ten years. When the legal arguments begin to take the form such that one person alone cannot possibly comprehend what is going on, how is a judge going to be able to make an honest and correct decision. What is going to happen when the complexity of these laws is so great that even a team of judges can not make an informed and honest decision.
  • by lakeland ( 218447 ) <lakeland@acm.org> on Saturday January 29, 2005 @12:13AM (#11511309) Homepage
    This is a bug in the draft licence which sun is actively working on. It won't be a problem in the final version. For some reason the summary forgot to mention that...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      ???? Precisely which "bug" are you refering to?

      The fact that the CDDL is incompatible with the GPL and ties prospective users to Sun products exclusively, or the fact that the Sun - Microsoft cross-licensing agreements will remain undisclosed to prospective developers?

      Caveat emptor!
    • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday January 29, 2005 @03:08AM (#11511967) Homepage Journal
      I have discussed this twice so far with one of the PR people listed on the press release regarding the 1600 patents. Never has there been a mention of "bugs" in the license.

      And the story keeps getting worse: They can sue Linux developers over those patents. They can sue their own Open Source partners. Now we hear it's part of a new IP licensing arrangement with Microsoft.

      I am having very much trouble getting a warm fuzzy feeling of trust like the one I would want to have about a company before contributing to their software.

      Bruce

      • by Anonymous Coward

        And the story keeps getting worse: They can sue Linux developers over those patents. They can sue their own Open Source partners. Now we hear it's part of a new IP licensing arrangement with Microsoft.

        You do realise you are spreading anti-Sun FUD. It might be true - though I personally doubt that - but it's most definitely FUD. You're saying "if you partner with Sun they can sue you over these patents". FUD. FUD. FUD.

        I hate this "new wave" political arm of OSS. I much prefer the reliable ranting of

        • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday January 29, 2005 @01:34PM (#11514108) Homepage Journal
          Dear AC,

          When someone threatens you, and tells the rest of the world that they are committing a philanthropic act, it is not FUD to set the story straight. Sun's "grant to the Open Source programmers" is written to threaten the Linux programmers, and indeed anyone who isn't working on Solaris. And yet they promote it as deserving greater recognition than IBM's grant, which was for all Open Source licenses that existed when IBM made the grant.

          Sun's conduct is deceptive, and setting the deception straight is hardly FUD.

          Bruce

      • The story isn't over yet.

        Solaris 10 has some major changes that I can't audit. That means its not going on my production systems ever.

        I've been recommending top of the line sun gear from the days of the 4/110 (1987) up to a e10k.

        Their current junk (services and zones) is way past the line. I could cope with pipes in /etc (ok so I can still DDOS the system because some moron at sun hasn't figured out /etc is not the place for pipes.)

        What I can't deal with is binary file that change with every boot like
  • This is natural. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Natural, but one should be vigilante.

    Of course corps are going to use licenses as weapons. They've been doing it for-fucking-ever, why would they stop in open source? Open source companies (like mine) compete hard. Companies that do have legal advantages and the resources to use them, will.

    The cool thing is that we've shifted the landscape, and now these battles are about "how open are you" questions.

    This isn't to say that everyone should fawn on closed source companies opening, on the contrary- ride

    • But do they have a license to ill?

      Without that, I don't think they stand much of a chance.
    • After reading though the ./er postings and
      GrokLaw's take on the CDDL, and the warning
      (blog) about Sun's 1600 patents, there have
      been enough issues exposed (IANAL) to stay
      away from ANY Sun CDDL code (so I am waste-
      binning the DTrace code I D/Led UNOPENED).

      Sun, after wrestling with MSFT for more than
      5 years (over Java, etcetera), has joined the
      Bill-Borg collective (IMHO). Their secret
      cross-licensing deal with MSFT regarding
      software patents SHOULD raise alarm bells
      with ALL F/OSS developers. Especially when
      y
  • What would... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lewis2 ( 212695 )
    What would RMS do?
    • Make it GPL.

    • The CDDL behaves just as the GPL does, so RMS really wouldn't have a solid basis to argue against it. If RMS doesn't express that OpenSolaris is a step in the right direction, then that would be disappointing.
    • I wonder if something could piss RMS off enough to make him shave his face in protest. :)
    • Re:What would... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dnoyeb ( 547705 )
      I have similar issues with the CPL and the EPL from IBM. Not about patents. The EPL/CPL hinges upon whether or not your code is a derivative work. Yet it neglects to describe the conditions underwhich you code becomes a derivative work. That is, they dont describe the term 'derivative work' as it applies to the license.

      My analysis of the EPL helped me to see what is so good about the GPL and the LGPL. They do exactly what they appear to do on the surface, no surprises.
      • My analysis of the EPL helped me to see what is so good about the GPL and the LGPL. They do exactly what they appear to do on the surface, no surprises.

        .... except when you consider LGPL with languages like Java and C# (search for discussion on why Apache people don't think they can use any LGPL'ed code with their own code). I wish there were no surprises, but the gaping hole in LGPL is the vague (or misguided) definition of dynamic and and static linking. It's ok for C and C++, but has trouble with (so

  • Too much Law (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 29, 2005 @12:21AM (#11511359)
    When I studied Computer science I didnt realise I needed to be a lawyer as well.

    This licensing/contract cr*p has become has gone too far.

    • Re:Too much Law (Score:4, Informative)

      by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday January 29, 2005 @03:58AM (#11512129) Homepage Journal
      It is the unfortunate truth that the occupation of engineers today is to marry together other peoples copyrights and patents to construct a derivative work, often one intended to be sold as a product. When I learned to use a soldering iron, I did not think of myself in those terms, but they were true then, and became even more true as ICs happened and then as programmable devices came about.

      We are approaching a point beyond which the art of engineering will be so seriously hindered that only very large companies will be able to approach the creation of software products. Legislative action will be necessary. But will the big companies win that legislative battle? They are winning it so far.Bruce

      • Re:Too much Law (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Ogerman ( 136333 )
        We are approaching a point beyond which the art of engineering will be so seriously hindered that only very large companies will be able to approach the creation of software products. Legislative action will be necessary. But will the big companies win that legislative battle? They are winning it so far.

        What we probably need is a massive grassroots movement aimed at tearing down software patents in the US. (Similar to the one aimed at preventing them in the EU). We don't have to stand around and accept
  • Woah (Score:4, Funny)

    by pHatidic ( 163975 ) on Saturday January 29, 2005 @12:33AM (#11511423)
    For /.ers who don't like reading a lot


    Where is the ironic tag when you need it.

  • I knew it! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kbahey ( 102895 ) on Saturday January 29, 2005 @12:43AM (#11511475) Homepage

    Just yesterday, I was thinking about what Sun has in mind with this OpenSolaris thing and CDDL.

    I remembered the Microsoft/Sun settlement [slashdot.org] deal [slashdot.org], and the stream of Sun's conflicting messages [slashdot.org] on open source, Java, ...etc.

    I am not a tinfoil guy at all, but could not help thinking about Microsoft 's deal influencing/directing/shaping Sun's decision to have its own sub-world of Open Source that would not allow innovations outside this sub-universe.

    Bruce Perens has confirmed with Sun that this is the case [slashdot.org].

    Now, the question is, did Microsoft influence it/order it? I hope it is not the case. Why Sun? Why?

    Sun is an example of a fall from grace: from being the darling of the open source community (Java, ...etc.) to sleeping with the enemy. IBM is the contrary, it has redeemed itself from being a monopolistic, arrogant behemoth to a major player in open source now.

    P.S. I am under no illusion of simplistic "IBM is bad" and "Sun/Redhat are bad". These assessments change and morph over time, and companies, like people, and nations have their ups and downs.

    • IBM is the contrary, it has redeemed itself from being a monopolistic, arrogant behemoth to a major player in open source now.

      Yeah, right. IBM is now the cute cuddly teddy bear. People complain about Sun being inconsistent, yet find no fault in IBM selling every OS and architecture ever invented, most of which have overlapping purposes and competing sales teams. Sometimes, the IBM fanboys' blinders are on so tight that they double as a pin-hole camera during eclipses.

      • Dude, nobody is accusing IBM from being a cuddly bear. Few people doubt that IBM is in the business of making money - any which way they can. I have frequent discussions with IBM about getting some of their desktop software to run on linux, and the answer is *always*: "show us we can make money doing so". IBM is not a charity, and nobody sane expects them to be. However, they understand that Linux is a "sales-enabler" for the hardware, software and services business, and as such it behooves them to be recog
    • I don't trust it either. Sun's "gift" is a poison apple. They're no friend to the OSS community.
    • Dude, we've always been anti-sun for their obnoxious java license.
    • Just yesterday, I was thinking about what Sun has in mind with this OpenSolaris thing and CDDL.

      Lets look at this realistically. Solaris / OpenSolaris does not have the industry-wide momentum that Linux does. Even if Sun chose GPL and the community rallied around it, it would take several years for OpenSolaris to become a viable product for the mainstream. For example, Linux has an enormous head-start in the area of hardware and architecture support. As a counterexample, look at *BSD. It is very much t
  • by Anonymous Coward
    At the first MIT Spam Conference, a few years ago, this creature calling itself a journalist got up and stood there with his bare face hanging out and told the assembled programmers and mail system operators that his goal in the anti-spam world was ...

    ... to get DNSBLs shut down.

    That's right. This guy placed himself voluntarily on the same side of the spam wars as the spammers who committed massive DoS attacks against major DNSBLs, leading to the loss of some of the most useful ones. On the same side as

  • by argoff ( 142580 ) on Saturday January 29, 2005 @12:53AM (#11511524)

    For all his rough edges, the simple truth is RMS is right about the GPL and technology. Freedom matters, and it is an end in itself unlike technology and wealth which are a means.
    • by sacrilicious ( 316896 ) on Saturday January 29, 2005 @07:30AM (#11512573) Homepage
      For all his rough edges, the simple truth is RMS is right about the GPL and technology. Freedom matters, and it is an end in itself unlike technology and wealth which are a means.

      Absolutely. It's funny, I see cycles of RMS bashing, followed by swings towards recognition of his vision, followed by more bashing... lather rinse repeat. When OSS has a good day people love to nitpick about RMS's beard, his social awkwardness, what have you. When OSS is on the ropes, people realize that the only f'ing thing holding it together is the GPL and RMS's refusal to "find a middle ground".

      • I see cycles of RMS bashing, followed by swings towards recognition of his vision,

        That's because generally what he says is true but he says it in a way that make him and everyone else on his side look like morons. If he would shut up he would be more productive despite the fact that what he says is true. It's a paradox that surfaces any time you have a brilliant and unlikeable person.

        TWW

  • Premature flaming (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SunFan ( 845761 ) on Saturday January 29, 2005 @01:02AM (#11511568)

    It is immature for GPL advocates to get all up-in-arms about the CDDL. Be happy that their is yet another big OSS project in the mix, rather than bitch about "wah, we can't cherry pick Sun's technology for ourselves." OpenSolaris, Linux, *BSD, etc. will all exist in parallel quite naturally. They compete only as brothers, with the common foe being Microsoft.
    • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday January 29, 2005 @03:34AM (#11512055) Homepage Journal
      Dear SunFan,

      It seems you don't understand the issues. The CDDL is a copyright license. We can live with other people having any copyright license they want for their own software. We simply won't touch that software if the license is unacceptable, and we will make sure everybody knows if the license is unacceptable.

      In contrast, patents can be used to prevent us from making our own software. And at $3 Million per defense (per the 2003 economic survey of the American Intellectual Property Law Association), we can not even afford to fight a patent that should not have been granted in the first place.

      In other words, your friends are holding a gun to our heads and you want us to appreciate them.

      Bruce

      • by mukund ( 163654 )

        Dear Bruce,

        We can live with other people having any copyright license they want for their own software. We simply won't touch that software if the license is unacceptable, and we will make sure everybody knows if the license is unacceptable.

        By your same argument, you can leave Sun and Microsoft alone and stick to using the software you like best. If you want the software patent system to be abolished, knocking Sun is not the right way to do it. Them releasing the patents to be used for CDDL (which I g

        • Mukund,

          My arguments are not premature. There is an implicit patent threat written in the terms of the so-called grant, coupled with publicity that is intended to make the grant look like a great philanthropic act toward the very Open Source developers who are threatened. What other method do we have to counter deceptive publicity than what I am doing?

          The way one argues for abolishment of a bad law is to cite concrete examples of abuse of the law when they are at hand.

          This is not like the social welfare argu

          • I wouldn't compare Sun to a thug. That'd be calling FUD. I haven't read of a single case where they have litigated offensively on software patents. And after their experiences with issues such as the Kodak case recently, I don't think they'd not have a strong opinion towards software patents. They do some good stuff such as OpenOffice, their work on GNOME and portions of Apache's software. They have released several more projects and contributed to others under open source and non-free licenses.

            Unlike you

            • I wouldn't compare Sun to a thug.

              Well, you compared them to poor people on public assistance, which is even more absurd.

              They are threatening me, and my friends. That's generally going to get them called thugs.IBM presents patent problems too, and if you look back in a press archive, you can see I've been very vocal about the IBM problem too.

              Bruce

              • Bruce,

                If this's something you want to argue personally against me ("you said", "I said", "so you're absurd"), then I'll stop discussing this here. I did not compare Sun or IBM to the welfare system. Please read my initial post properly.

                I merely said that the software patent system is legal, just like the welfare system, even though I don't think highly of it.

                Mukund

                • Mukund,

                  You're the one to pick the welfare system as a metaphor of another legal thing you don't approve of. If I were out to criticize you personally, I'd use the ad-hominem fallacy, etc. Instead, I criticized your argument. And I used the word "you" because you're responsible for your argument.

                  Bruce


      • If you don't like the CDDL, don't bitch so much and be happy with what you already have. Patents are a ball of wax unto themselves. I bet every big company out there has a thousand patents that they can pull out at any time against Linux, right now, next week, while we sleep. Just be happy they aren't so foolish.

        Your agenda against Sun is wearing thin.
        • SunFan, no amount of your repetition will convince anyone that this is about the CDDL. It's about the patent grant that is actually a threat. It's deceptive. If that word is too long for you, how about "lie". Its publicity certainly was a lie. Most companies haven't told similar lies. Most companies are smart enough not to make similar threats to the one that Sun's just made.

          I do what I can to fight software patents. I logged 50,000 air miles last year because the battle is on both sides of the Atlantic. Th


          • If you are so bent out of shape over this, why not approach Sun about it? That would go further towards satisfying you than posting on Slashdot...but, then, you wouldn't be working to just turn people against OpenSolaris. I guess the latter provides a bigger benefit to you, personally.


            • And when I say "approach Sun about it" I mean, go straight past the PR know-nothings and talk to a Sun lawyer--someone who can talk to you in complete sentences.
            • I made an offer of advice before the release. Indeed, a number of times. I made it through various official channels. It wasn't taken up.

              In my experience, Sun listens best when you write and publish things about them.Bruce

  • So GPL is a license for Free/Open Source Software, and CDDL/Eclipse are licenses for submarines [c2.com].
  • I worry about this (Score:3, Insightful)

    by strider44 ( 650833 ) on Saturday January 29, 2005 @01:15AM (#11511616)
    Basically they've quite deliberately (under the pretence of removing an overly "burdensome" section of the license) inserted a loophole that they can exploit. Developers working under the CDDL just have to trust that Sun are "good" and working under their best interests.

    I'm not sure I trust Sun the way they hope that the community trusts them. Even though IBM's 500 patent donation (just looking at quantity, not quality) is smaller, I think it's more significant to the open source movement. Only when Sun legally bind themselves for our trust like IBM has will I start trusting them.
  • by bmetz ( 523 ) on Saturday January 29, 2005 @01:17AM (#11511627) Homepage
    The EPL doesn't stop IBM's donation of the original Eclipse source from "leaking" into competitor's products. In fact, the EPL has enabled many vendors to build products which directly compete against IBM's offerings. It is also important to note that in the case of Eclipse there is an independent non-profit organization which develops the code -- hence the E in EPL.
    • Bmetz: agreed, but be sure not to confuse the IBM patent license from the Eclipse copyright license. This is essentially a patent matter, as we could care less what Sun does with their code if they don't want to be good sharing partners, but we have to care about their patents.

      Thanks

      Bruce

  • by The_Dougster ( 308194 ) on Saturday January 29, 2005 @02:19AM (#11511817) Homepage
    There has been a lot of heresay about Solaris being technically superior to Linux, and in some cases this is warranted, but for the most part I would tend to disagree.

    Especially if one compares the Solaris system to the GNU system, technically superior might not be as good as flexible and usefull. I admit that I am a command line commando and I like lots of command line switches and options. In my experience, the GNU operating system utilities are the best to be had. Perhaps they don't run fully optimized, but doing exactly what you need at any speed is better than not doing what you need at high performance levels.

    Sun's obvious plan here is to use the Solaris Unix kernel and bolster Solaris with more feature-rich GNU-derived utilities. Their open source initiative is their "right" to justly use and incorporate the bulk of GNU into the arms of their Solaris operating system.

    It's a good idea for them, and they are acting on it while the iron is hot. Solaris can benefit from all the great GNU software as first-class packages rather than /usr/local slipshod type upgrades.

    I would presume that the Solaris UNIX kernel is indeed technically superior to the Linux kernel when running on Sun hardware, but I think that I will continue to run the Linux kernel on my non-Sun machines. I know that if the license is compatible enough, Debian will soon make a Debian GNU/Solaris which boots the Solaris kernel into a Debian userland (on Sun hardware). That seems to be the way of it.

    • Doug,

      The only fellow who tried to establish technical superiority of Solaris that I've heard of so far was not personally up to the task.

      I am sure they have some stuff that's better in Solaris, for now, and Linux has some stuff that's better. Two years from now, if Sun and its buddies do not mount a patent attack, that will not be true. Linux will have completely overtaken Solaris. And that's why I fear the attack will happen.

      Bruce

  • Just like SCO, when a company start whipping out the lawsuits it's good sign the company is in deep shit! No company would risk bad PR unless it was their last gasp of air to maintain market share.

    Just goes to show, when a company is about to go under, they at least go down fighting.

  • Everyone! Look the other way! It's really Microsoft's fault that we're doing all this to you really - don't blame us. We've got nothing to do with it.
  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Saturday January 29, 2005 @08:42AM (#11512735)
    I work for a company that has a cross-licensing agreement with Microsoft. One of our lawyers explained that if we write code that infringes on a Microsoft patent, we're covered. But Microsoft insisted on an exclusion for Open Source. If we use an OS product that infringes, the cross-license agreement does not apply; they can come after us and our customers.
  • Has anyone ever thought of writing a whole bunch of insane software licenses, copyrighting them, and then refusing anyone from infringing on their copyright by using said licenses? Is that even possible?

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