What was liberal is now conservative
Times change. During the 1980s, Richard Stallman's Free Software movement established the four freedoms, with the Gnu General Public license (GPL) appearing in 1989. In 1994-97, the Debian Free Software Guidelines established a need for the code in its distribution of Gnu/Linux to be fully free software. The Sun RPC license did not qualify, becuase of the restriction on distribution as is -- an "additional restriction" that also meant the license is not GPL-compatible. By the beginning of this decade, Debian maintainers were making a serious effort to audit the millions of lines of code in Debian for true DFSG compliance. And in 2002, they found the old Sun RPC code in core Linux files glibc and portmap. The members of the Fedora community were also engaged in a similar effort.
Reading the history for Debian bug 181493 tells the next part of the story. Inside Sun, the challenge of finding the code in question was Just Too Hard, and the things reached an uneasy impasse.
The issue came back to life in 2008 when the bug was re-asserted as part of the run-up to the Lenny release. I was contacted both by folks at Debian -- notably my friend Ean Schuessler -- and at Fedora -- notably by Tom "Spot" Callaway -- asking if there was anything I could do to accelerate licensing of the old code. Both projects had decided to take a hard line and removing the code from glibc and portmap was going to be a real headache, especially for the stability of glibc.
A challenging effort
The task of relicensing old code can be pretty time-consuming and involves people who were already much in demand.