GPL v3 for Solaris? Torvalds Doubts It

Lora Bentley

I don't usually delve into software licensing issues here, but since this one involves Solaris...


In an e-mail over the weekend, Linus Torvalds characterized Sun Microsystems' open source efforts as self-interested, a lot of "talk" that results in very little action, and not at all geared toward giving anything back to the community. He did commend the company for releasing Java under GPL v2, but then said Sun would most likely go with a GPL v3-only release for Solaris:

[T]o Sun, a GPLv3-only release would actually let them look good, and still keep Linux from taking their interesting parts, and would allow them to take at least parts of Linux without giving anything back (ahh, the joys of license fragmentation).

(Context says "interesting parts" is a reference to the ZFS file system in Solaris; later in the e-mail Torvalds says a GPL v3 release of ZFS might be enough to make him consider migrating the Linux kernel.)


Sun's Jonathan Schwartz responded today via an open letter in his blog. He takes issue with the characterization of his company's open source efforts as selfish and not community-centered, and explains why open sourcing Sun's software seems to take so long:

[W]e're starting from products that exist, in which a diversity of contributors and licensors/licensees have rights we have to negotiate...It's different than starting from scratch.

As for why Sun hasn't released Solaris under GPL v2? Simply put, the company loves where GPL v3 is going, he says, and "GPL v2 is harder." If the company was indeed scared of the open source community, would it really want to see ZFS in different platforms -- with "full patent immunity?"


Encouraging Torvalds to "put the swords down," Schwartz insists that he wants Sun to work with the community. And just in case Torvalds doesn't believe him? The Linux kernel creator has a standing invitation to dinner at Schwartz's house.

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