Just to say that I agree with most of the points mentionned by Mike in his
previous emails (as of 20.02.2004).
But to come back to a few specific points (and I am not a lawyer myself so
please correct me if I am wrong ;-) ):
At 16:42 23/02/2004, Zak Greant wrote:
>On Feb 22, 2004, at 01:53, Mike Hillyer wrote:
>>Now here's another question: MySQL uses the GPL, but it seems like this
>>leaves a lot of room for interpretation. In addition, modifications are
>>already being made to the license to allow for linking in PHP. Is it perhaps
>>time to implement the changes as "The MySQL License"?
>I think that this would increase the level of confusion about the licensing.
>The license is the GPL, with optional exceptions. This makes it clear that
>you can use it just as if it were stock GPL. If you need to do things that
>go outside of the GPL, then you can look at the exceptions or purchase a
>license for proprietary use.
>Also, I like the GPL - I think it is still the best representation of the
>community side of our business ideals.
First of all I just want to say that I fully agree with the quid pro quo
philosophy that MySQL tries to currently put in place and promote. I myself
manage a software company based on this principle ( Jahia: www.jahia.org
based on a collaborative source license: www.collaborativesource.org ).
However, in opposite to Zack position, I am clearly not convinced that the
GPL license is the best license to implement such a strategy.
1) You play on the confusion created by the terms "derivative works" (what
is really a derivative work at the end?) and "distribution" ("If I install
internally a fail-over server with my own proprietary program with both
servers runnning MySQL, is it considered as an "internal distribution" and
then subject to the viral effect of the GPL?) in order to be able to resell
some commercial licenses. I am also not sure that making exceptions is the
best way to reach your goal. Why PHP license is an exception and not Apache
or Python or Zope... licenses
GPL is not compliant with a lot of other OSI licenses so do you plan to
make exceptions for all these licenses? (cf: "If your software is licensed
under either the GPL-compatible Free Software License as defined by the
Free Software Foundation or approved by OSI, then use our GPL licensed
version" available on: http://www.mysql.com/products/licensing.html ).
2) Free Software means free like in free speech but also like in free beer.
You then can then not bill the final end-user. So you are trying to bill
the intermediaries (=ISVs). This is ok for embedded libraries. But is a
database today really considered as an embedded library? Clearly no. The
choice of the database layer is often already made by the end-customers
according to various criterias (DBAs training, internal dev skills,...) and
the ISV has to adjust his program to it. Not the opposite. Most of the
programs developed today are then database independant. As an ISV myself, I
am ready to make some efforts to be MySQL compliant (aka test my software
with MySQL, adjust scripts if necessary,...) in order to easy the use of
MySQL for our end-customers if (and only if) they want to use your database
layer but I will never pay myself for a database architecture choice that
is not dependant of me.
3) GPL was not created to enforce a strong quid pro quo paradigm. If you
want to enforce such a philosophy you will have, from one manner or the
other, to restrain the right of use of the end-user. The possible
limitation of the GPL is on (re)distribution not on the use of the program
itself that is not restricted. This is not what I call a quid pro quo
principle that finally aims to to "value" and "bill" (by accepting payment
in cash or in kind) the end-user pro-rata his use of the technology.
Whatever you try to do, you then have a serious concern in your commercial
licensing model by keeping this free right to use MySQL.
4) You want to promote collaboration and community work but if you want to
be able to continue to dual license MySQL, you (MySQL AB) have to own 100%
of the IP or exploitation rights. Otherwise speaking you can not accept
third party contributions under a GPL agreement only. The contributor will
also have to provide to you, in addition to the GPL, an unlimited right to
sublicense his modifications. Else you may not be able to repackage his
contributions in your commercial distributions (or am I wrong?). Of course
he can release a patch/module available on another web site but the main
goal of contributions in general is to integrate them in the core kernel
not to fork the project. Furthermore how the contributor is compensated for
his work. If he develop some extensions, freely provide them to you, has he
still have to pay to you a license fee if he has developed a proprietary
program running on top of MySQL? As I understand it, yes. Otherwise
speaking he is freely enhancing your product but still has to pay a license
fee... Not quite a "collaborative" approach... and this has nothing to do
with the fact that his own program is closed sourced or not... (I hope you
give them at least a free commercial license in such a case ;-) )
All these points to say that we faced exactly the same challenge a few
years ago while chosing our company business model based on an open code
base (hopefully we had no existing GPL code base and 100% of the IP
rights). We finally came to the conclusion that, for our type of software
(and I precise it), a "classical" dual licensing model based on GPL was not
the right one. We wanted a viral effect on contribution not on code. We
wanted to be able to tax technology free riders (what we call the unvalue
added tax mechanism) and actively promote collaboration. That is why we
finally came to the conclusion that we had to create a new community source
license (that we defined from a generic manner on collaborativesource.org ).
>>When MySQL uses the GPL as "The GPL" it makes me wonder whose interpretation
>>of the GPL is final in licensing issues: is it MySQL AB's interpretation or
>>the FSF's that applies? Perhaps a naming of "The MySQL Open License" and
>>"The MySQl Commercial License" would make it clear that the license is
>>specific to MySQL and MySQL AB is the final decider.
>Neither party is the final interpreter of the GPL. The GPL is based on
>copyright law and neither MySQL AB or the Free Software Foundation has the
>ability to interpret or pass laws - instead, this is generally the
>responsibility of a court.
Exactly what Mike said... You play with the terms of the GPL as there is
nearly no legal case studies we can rely on to know exactly what can be
considered as a derivative work or not...
However the idea of a MySQL Open License is not so bad. Keeping the base
foundation server under GPL but releasing some "professional" or
"enterprise" editions or complementary "add-ons" or "modules" under a more
restrictive source license may be a good business model. The risk is
obviously that the community may decide to recreate your extensions under a
GPL license and then to loose a part of your customers for direct new
incoming competitors.... but is it really a big risk giving the size that
MySQL AB reached today?
My 2cts from an active promotor of MySQL vs other proprietary database
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