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From:Mike Hillyer Date:February 20 2004 10:28pm
Subject:Licensing for tools
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Ok now here's a question to ponder...

As you probably don't know, I run a site ( that 
houses a pretty distincy community: as a site for Windows developers 
most of my users are writing commercial applications. Now this group is 
pretty confused about MySQL licensing, and some who have read the MySQL 
license documentation are trying to authoritatively state that they are 
ok to distribute their apps without a commercial license because their 
app talks to the ODBC manager, which talks to MyODBC, and there is a 
license exception for the ODBC manager. An interesting argument which 
even the FSF seems to favor.

Now that was actually me on a tangent, lets get to the real question: I 
run Google Adsense on my site and I notice a lot of tools and libraries 
advertised. For example, I have ads for a product called MySQL X, a 
custom COM library for connecting to MySQL wia a C API wrapper rather 
than ODBC. Another ad lists a backup tool for MySQL. Both of these sell 
for less than $100 so obviously they are not paying a license fee to 

So lets say I buy/sell a tool for others to use with MySQL: who pays the 
license fee? Me for using a commercial app with MySQL or them for 
selling it? This becomes interesting to me because the software in 
question is not an application built against MySQL but a tool to manage 
and/or interface with MySQL.

So here's another thing to think about: how does MySQL deal with the 
small-time commercial developer? Lets say Joe Student develops a nice 
app with embedded MySQL and wants to sell it. Now it's an end-consumer 
application and he expects to only be able to charge $19 for it, which 
leaves him a little short when it comes to the MySQL license fees (And I 
don't want to hear that he should just release it as Open Source, this 
is not the point of the question and besides, if he goes that road MySQL 
AB gets nothing. Of course without a proper license solution MySQL AB 
gets nothing, since Joe just switched to using and Access .mdb file as 
much as he doesn't want to).

And while we I am throwing out things to think about, lets consider a 
company that is thinking of adding MySQL support to their existing 
application that already runs on MS SQL Server: do they pay a licensing 
fee when they sell a copy? Why should they? When they sell a copy of 
their application to a customer who uses SQL Server, it is the customer 
who is responsible for ensuring that they have proper licenses for SQL 
Server, not the software vendor. Microsoft gives them free reign to use 
the drivers, because this means more applications will support SQL 
Server, and the customers of the ISVs will buy more copies of SQL Server 
as they buy more copies of the ISV produced software.

Developers and end users need less ambiguity. If I choose to develop an 
application that is based on MySQL and wish to sell it commercially I 
need to know who needs to pay: me of the buyer of my software. If it's 
me I need to know how many licenses I need to buy: One for my office, 
one for each copy of my app I sell, one for each customer's server, one 
for each of my servers? I need to know what happens if I develop a 
server tool that could concievably be used with hundreds of customer 
servers. Finally, I need to know how I can use MySQL to power an 
application that costs significantly less than a MySQL server license.

I hope this gets you thinking. Commercial developers want to use MySQL. 
I know, I have talked to plenty of them. The biggest barrier they have 
to using MySQL is their understanding of licensing, so lets smash this 

Mike Hillyer
Licensing for toolsMike Hillyer20 Feb
  • RE: Licensing for toolsSteph21 Feb
    • RE: Licensing for toolsMike Hillyer21 Feb
      • RE: Licensing for toolsSteph22 Feb
        • Re: Licensing for toolsZak Greant23 Feb
  • Zak Status (was Re: Licensing for tools)Zak Greant22 Feb