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Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL)

This is a guest post by Mohammad Atif, who is currently carrying out a PhD in high performance computing and virtualization at the Australian National Univeristy (Canberra, Australia). This is a follow-on post from a previous posting on open-source licenses (Critical Analysis of Open Source Licenses)

Sun’s Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL) is a community oriented license which is geared towards protecting the rights of the initial developer of the software e.g. Open Solaris was open sourced under CDDL, and its initial developer is Sun Microsystems (Now soon to be Oracle). This license is based on Mozilla’s Public License (MPL).  Under the CDDL license terms, any code contributed towards the project has it’s copyright assigned to the initial developer. This ensures that the initial developer can reuse that particular code towards any proprietary closed source project (a major difference compared to MPL and GPL). The initial developer can also change the license subsequently, and has the right to make the whole project closed source (at any point) including any third-party contributions provided after the availability of the initial code under the CDDL.

In contrast, the Mozilla Public License (MPL) does not require third-party contributors to sign over their copyright in favour of the initial developer. MPL only requires that any code submitted to the project should be licensed as MPL or be proprietary.

Often CDDL is criticized by open-source purists as not being developer friendly, as subsequent contributors of patches or new features can lose their right to IP they have contributed at the whim of the initial developer. MPL though more developer friendly, is not compatible with GPL and the reason why Firefox is released under a triple-license (MPL/GPL/LGPL).

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