December 5, 2006 5:26 PM PST

Sun's open-source chief rallies behind GPL 3

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Sun's chief open-source officer has backed the third version of the General Public License.

On a company blog, Simon Phipps said that existing work towards GPL 3 had been "extraordinary and effective" and that he is "frankly amazed by the criticisms."

Phipps' comments may be surprising, given Sun's decision last month to release Java under version 2 of the GPL, which governs Linux and many other open-source products. They are also noticeable because of Phipps' senior position at a commercial software vendor.

"Sun has been engaged directly in the GPLv3 process since it started...and we continue to take a close and positive interest in the proceedings. My personal view is that the GPLv3 process has been extraordinary and effective so far in taking a somewhat partisan initial draft and evolving it into a solid license," Phipps wrote in the blog entry last week.

He added that criticisms of the GPL 3 process seem to ignore the positive way it is evolving and find fault with things that are already being tackled by developers. "I would be very surprised if the final GPLv3 was not an effective tool for some of the communities Sun sustains or will initiate in the future," he wrote.

Phipps made the comments in an effort to explain Sun's decision to release Java under version 2 and to counter suggestions that the company is critical of version 3. He sought to justify its approach.

"Sun could not in good faith commit to use a license sight-unseen for such an important code-base. It's used on four billion devices...and the risk--however slight--that the GPLv3 might prove harmful to them can't be taken. Committing to it when it's not finished does not seem responsible stewardship," he wrote.

For now, the Java platform will licensed under just the GPL 2, he stressed, though he did add that he hoped Sun would be able to use it eventually. "Maybe we could have delayed the Freeing of the Java platform until the new license was ready, but we felt that was too long to wait," he noted.

The GPL 3 process is expected to be completed in the spring.

Linus Torvalds has publicly said he will not convert Linux to version 3 because he has doubts over the proposals for digital rights management (DRM) provisions in the new version.

Richard Thurston of ZDNet UK reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
GPL 3, GPL, GPLv3, Sun Microsystems Inc., Java Platform


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