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MySQL Changes License To Avoid GPLv3 311

Posted by kdawson
from the love-that-v2 dept.
munchola writes "MySQL has quietly changed the license it uses for its database to avoid being forced to move to the forthcoming GPLv3. CBRonline is reporting that Kaj Arno, MySQL VP of community relations, revealed the license change on his blog, noting it was made 'in order to make it an option, not an obligation for the company to move to GPLv3.'"
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MySQL Changes License To Avoid GPLv3

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  • by John Nowak (872479) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @11:39AM (#17458506)
    "However, now, until we get clear and strong indications for the general acceptance of GPLv3 over GPLv2, we feel comfortable with a specific GPLv2 reference in our license."

    How did the old "version 2 or later" cause a problem then? All this does is restrict people from applying GPLv3 terms if they want to. It doesn't help anyone.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sweetshark (696449)

      How did the old "version 2 or later" cause a problem then? All this does is restrict people from applying GPLv3 terms if they want to. It doesn't help anyone.
      Well, if MySQL should be usable with GPL2, the "or later clause" may cause problems. For example a GPLv3-only-licensed patch would force MySQL to the new license.
      • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Thursday January 04, 2007 @12:01PM (#17458836) Homepage
        For example a GPLv3-only-licensed patch would force MySQL to the new license.
        This is irrelevant since MySQL require copyright assignment for any code they add (this is implied by the article which says that the MySQL company owns the whole copyright for MySQL).
      • by Cyclops (1852) <rms@1 4 0 7 . o rg> on Thursday January 04, 2007 @12:33PM (#17459352) Homepage
        Well, if MySQL should be usable with GPL2, the "or later clause" may cause problems. For example a GPLv3-only-licensed patch would force MySQL to the new license.
        This makes absolutely no sense:
        1. they have the right to REJECT the patch
        2. they require copyright assignment so they could change the license anyway


        Somehow, when a company capitalizes on the "commercial" confusion, it doesn't surprise me at all that they would make this "error" (I don't think it's accidental, I mean to suggest they are faking a confusion, as in the "commercial" term, in order to forbid anyone from making a GPL V3 fork of MySQL)

        The "commercial" term "confusion" they capitalize upon make many think that in order to make a commercial application they would have to get the proprietary version of MySQL.

        That, of course, makes no sense at all. The FSF explains it very succintly [gnu.org], and David Wheeler quite recently explained it in a very detailed manner [dwheeler.com].
        • Somehow, when a company capitalizes on the "commercial" confusion, it doesn't surprise me at all that they would make this "error" (I don't think it's accidental, I mean to suggest they are faking a confusion, as in the "commercial" term, in order to forbid anyone from making a GPL V3 fork of MySQL)

          The "commercial" term "confusion" they capitalize upon make many think that in order to make a commercial application they would have to get the proprietary version of MySQL.

          That, of course, makes no sense at al

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Rogerborg (306625)
      It is very peculiar. I'm not sure what to make of that. I guess I'll do what I usually do, and wait for RMS to tell me what to think.
    • How did the old "version 2 or later" cause a problem then? All this does is restrict people from applying GPLv3 terms if they want to. It doesn't help anyone.

      Removing "or later" protects an author's rights, it makes sure that the terms of the license matches their goals, the goals GPL v2 embodied. "Or later" is a blank check, author's have no guarantee that the license will not go in an undesirable direction and embrace ideas they do not support. Removing "or later" also provides balance, it gives some
  • by 1155 (538047) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @11:43AM (#17458568) Homepage
    We're going to have to do this with Adium as well. We are unable to contact some contributors to get their ok on using GPLv3, and rather than disrespect their contributions by pushing the bottom line of v3, we're going to have to keep using v2 since it's the license they submitted with.

    I completely agree with this in either case. v3 is about pushing an agenda within a license from what I can tell, rather than sticking to what it is, a license. It's their license, fine, but pushing their own goals through it makes it even more restrictive to use the GPL than it already is. It's frustrating.
    • The GPL has always been about promoting the agenda and goals of the Free Software Foundation. Yes, it's "just" a license. Licenses are always about furthering goals. Do you think Microsoft doesn't have an agenda and goals with their licenses?

      I'm not sure from your description what the problem is with your project. If people had previously submitted code under GPLv2 only, then I would think most of the code would have to be GPLv2 only, so no change would be necessary? Is it possible to mix "GPLv2 and la
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by swillden (191260) *

        Is it possible to mix "GPLv2 and later" and "GPLv2 only"?

        IANAL, but it would seem to me that given a program consisting of two modules, one GPLv2+ and one GPLv2-only, the result would be distributable only under GPLv2.

        Distribution under the terms of GPLv2 would satisfy the licensing requirements of both modules, but distribution under the terms of GPLv3 would violate the license of the v2-only module. The GPLv2+ module could be used as part of another program distributed according to the terms of GPLv3.

    • We're going to have to do this with Adium as well. We are unable to contact some contributors to get their ok on using GPLv3, and rather than disrespect their contributions by pushing the bottom line of v3, we're going to have to keep using v2 since it's the license they submitted with.

      I'm not sure you can change your license from "v2 or later" to "v2 only" without permission. If you accepted contributions to a project under a "v2 or later" license, then your contributors were placing their code under *that* license, and a change to a "v2 only" license would constitute releasing contributors' code under a license they didn't approve.

      MySQL AB doesn't have the same issue because they own the copyright on all of their code (i.e. they don't accept contributions unless the copyright is as

      • by greginnj (891863) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @12:56PM (#17459754) Homepage Journal
        I'm not sure you can change your license from "v2 or later" to "v2 only" without permission. If you accepted contributions to a project under a "v2 or later" license, then your contributors were placing their code under *that* license, and a change to a "v2 only" license would constitute releasing contributors' code under a license they didn't approve.
        Umm, yes they did. You have to watch your inclusions here. "v2 only" is a subset of "v2 or later". Also note that the "v2 or later" language is not actually part of the license (or a license type itself); it's just a phrase that is traditionally used to introduce the license in many releases. It's equivalent to saying "This software is simultaneously released under v2, and v3, and v4, and v5, and ... v_n -- take your pick".

        Once you have that situation, the release under v3 does not 'trump' or efface the release under v2; it is just an additional license possibility.

        In the case we're discussing, anybody who picks up the code to reuse it can choose to either release the result under "v2 only" or under "v2 or later". In the the first case, they're picking up the "v2" option of the initial package. Remember, the initial package is still out there in the ether, available under v2, v3, v4, ..., vn, so the restriction only applies to the mod.

        Note that this reading relies heavily on the use of the word OR in "... or later". It provides the choice to the person receiving the code as to which license they'll accept. If the original stipulation said "v2 AND any later version", we'd be in the sort of "v3 trumps v2" situation everyone seems to be worrying about - but if these issues ever came to trial, I seriously doubt any judge would accept as valid a release under a license that did not yet exist at the time the license was granted. (IANAL).
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by swillden (191260) *

          Also note that the "v2 or later" language is not actually part of the license (or a license type itself); it's just a phrase that is traditionally used to introduce the license in many releases.

          More than that. It's the language that typically accompanies the copyright statement, and is the formal indication of the license granted by the copyright holder. The recipient can choose which set of rules they redistribute under, but I'm not at all sure they can change the actual license chosen by the copyright holder.

          To be clear, If write a program and license it under v2+, I think you can:

          • Distribute under v2
          • Distribute under v3
          • Add v2-only code, making the result distributable only under v2
          • Add
    • Re: Agendas (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mpapet (761907)
      While sticking with V2 is the right thing to dor for Adium, you may be ignoring the critical loophole in V2 that they are attempting to close.

      Tivo has abused V2 in a novel way that privatizes their software. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tivoization [wikipedia.org] Tivo is just the beginning of V2 abuse. (novell/microsoft anyone?) What happens when Trusted Computing is fully implemented? Tivo on a massive scale.

      I'm saying this agenda benefits everyone tomorrow rather than sticking with V2 where the public benefits will com
    • The GPL has always had an agenda: "To guarantee the freedom to share and change free software".
      GPL3 has more restrictions than GPL2 but the agenda has not changed as far as I can tell.

      I've looked at the GPL3 draft and every additional restriction does seem to better promote that agenda than GPLv2 (against real threats or current uses of the GPL not in line with the stated purpose). I suspect a lot of the people complaining about GPLv3 actually liked or even relied on some of the holes in GPLv2, that were wo
    • You don't have to keep to using GPLv2. And if your contributors submitted using the standard verbiage, then they explicitly allow you to use later versions of the GPL at your option. That's what the standard verbiage does: it allows anyone to apply the current version of the GPL, or a later one if said person wishes.
    • We are unable to contact some contributors to get their ok on using GPLv3, and rather than disrespect their contributions by pushing the bottom line of v3, we're going to have to keep using v2 since it's the license they submitted with.

      I agree with others here -- even if it's legally OK for you to do that, if they released their code under v2 or later, then they have to be OK with it. You'll have to decide for yourself whether you want v3 or not -- and I'd suggest you either wait for v3 to be released, or

    • All of the GPL licenses have been about pushing an agenda with a license. Personally, I think the new license is generally clearer and easier to work with. It makes it much easier for non-GPL free software and GPL free software to be able to play together.

      You are trying to push an agenda with your license too. It's an anti-GPLv3 agenda. So you're complaint about the GPLv3 is somewhat silly. If there's something a little more specific you'd like to complain about, please do. I would really hate to hav

  • Good for them. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FishWithAHammer (957772) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @11:44AM (#17458578)
    I have severe problems with the GPLv3 as-is; I feel they're trying to stuff a brand of morality and a system of thought down the throats of programmers who licensed their creations in good faith under the GPLv2.

    Anyone who takes a step back and says "now wait a tick" to that kind of thing, I like. Maybe the GPLv3 won't be as bad as it seems, but that little "or any later version" clause is one that simply should not be included for projects of any magnitude.
    • I have severe problems with the GPLv3 as-is; I feel they're trying to stuff a brand of morality and a system of thought down the throats of programmers who licensed their creations in good faith under the GPLv2.

      "programmers in good faith" can still develop every bit with the "or-any-later"-clause. and free software is about a system of thoughts: users have a right to know how the software works, a right to tinker and a right to pass their changes on. nearly everyone who contributes to free / open source software has accepted this, be it b/c of morality (FSF ppl: RMS for example) or b/c they think its a far superiour development model (OSS ppl: Linus, ESR).

      okay ? now the interesting stuff: the FSF is just trying

  • Uhm. And? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by repvik (96666) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @11:57AM (#17458780)
    Let me see.... So, they're changing the licence from now on. But I can still download a GPLv2-and-later licenced one that just isn't the latest version.

    So, are they planning on adding features that will be incompatible with GPLv3?
    • Re:Uhm. And? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by repvik (96666) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @11:59AM (#17458820)
      As a sidenote, having a licence that specifies "this version or any other later revision of this licence" is kinda braindead. That makes it possible to do all kinds of neat tricks to the licence, and you can't really do anything about it (Except change the licence for the next release).
      • Right before that clause there is a note saying that future licences will have the same spirit (read intention) than the curent one. That means, the licence protect the 4 freedoms, for you and everybody that you send a copy of the work (and that is quite clear at the licence).

        All those problems are caused by people that want the benefits that GPL give them (code hard to steal, a communit that develops for you, and a few others) without wanting the obligations that come with them. But both come toguether, G

      • > As a sidenote, having a licence that specifies "this version or any other later revision of this licence" is kinda braindead. That makes it possible to do all kinds of neat tricks to the licence, and you can't really do anything about it (Except change the licence for the next release).

        I take it you don't actually know *why* that clause is in there? For a work like Linux, it's so that it's *possible* to update the license (they don't use it, but if they did, they'd be able to update the license).

        Why d
      • by swillden (191260) *

        As a sidenote, having a licence that specifies "this version or any other later revision of this licence" is kinda braindead. That makes it possible to do all kinds of neat tricks to the licence, and you can't really do anything about it (Except change the licence for the next release).

        However, those "neat tricks" can also be beneficial, so it can also be a good idea.

        Really, it just comes down to a question of how much you trust the author of the license. If you can safely assume that future revisions won't do anything you disagree with, then that's fine. Personally, I'm very much in agreement with the goals of the FSF, and I have confidence that they aren't going to change -- RMS hasn't changed his perspective one iota in the last 20 years, so I think we can safely assume he won't

    • by Cylix (55374)
      Actually, I'm not going to chastize them for the change, but rather laugh at them for not fixing that clause a long time ago.

      It's just plain dumb to have a license that can be retroactively changed by anyone other then you.

      Think about it in terms of common sense.

      Would you trust your benevolent dictator or hedge your bets to ensure a path chosen by you.
      • I'm laughing right along with you.

        It's difficult to overstate how strong the ramifications of that "or any later version" clause are. For all intents and purposes, including that clause when you license your code is the next best thing to assigning copyright of your code to the FSF, since it allows them to re-license your code as they see fit.

        Of course, the FSF likes you to assign copyright to them anyway, but failing that, they booby-trapped the license with language which most people have not been aware
        • I think you're missing the real point for the 'or later' clause. It allows voluntary updates of the license. Suppose you build a piece of software alongside many contributors. Some contributors have moved on, others are hard to find. No one signed their copyright over to you, but all licensed their software under the same license. Two scenario's: one where there is an 'or later' clause, one where there isn't.

          Now Tivo comes along and takes your software and with a legal trick circumvents your license, maki

          • 'able to obtain'? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by The Monster (227884)

            Now Tivo comes along and takes your software and with a legal trick circumvents your license, making sure nobody is actually able to obtain Tivo's modifications to your software.

            Every bit of Tivo's source code is available, and anyone who wants to use it can use the software. You are completely free to use that software on any hardware that will run it. They've built hardware with PROM bootstrap that refuses to execute a kernel that isn't signed by a Tivo key. There are very good reasons why a company mi

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by SMQ (241278)

      So, are they planning on adding features that will be incompatible with GPLv3?

      Sure, every change they've made or will make that's licensed GPLv2 only. You can indeed download the most-recent "GPLv2 or higher" code, but if you then patch it with any "GPLv2 only" code you can only redistribute under GPLv2.

    • Re:Uhm. And? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ajs (35943) <ajs@ a j s . c om> on Thursday January 04, 2007 @12:35PM (#17459392) Homepage Journal
      They just want to have the chance to look at v3 and see what it means for their business. I don't think that's an unreasonable possition to take, especially given that FSF is hell-bent on making the v3 license a big advocacy push against DRM and patents that might have substantial collateral damage among free software businesses.
  • Freedom is scary (Score:2, Informative)

    by crosbie (446285)
    Given the GPLv3 (however it's written) cannot reduce the liberty provided by the GPLv2, one can only imagine that those who cross out "or later" are fearful that the public may be given more liberty by the GPLv3 than they'd prefer them to have.

    What kind of liberties are there to be afraid of?

    The GPLv3 can only restore the liberties suspended by copyright, patents, and the DMCA. It cannot grant any additional liberties, e.g. to inspect the publisher's premises, or to sleep with its CEO's daughter, etc.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bluefoxlucid (723572)

      Unless someone makes a specially modified MySQL for a closed device (TiVo?), redistributes the source code with the modifications but under the same license ("...GPLv2 or any later version"), and then you leverage that you have accepted the software under any later version (GPLv3 specifically) to legally force the manufacturer to release encryption keys and free up any patents he owns.

      Yes, some companies may prefer to use MySQL or MySQL-embedded as GPL software and release the code, working on a servic

      • by crosbie (446285)
        That's the point I was obliquely trying to make, i.e. that those who prefer 'GPLv2 only' probably do not have the public's liberty uppermost in their mind, but rather an eye toward potential revenue models on the horizon that rely on its suspension (patents/DMCA).
      • Unless someone makes a specially modified MySQL for a closed device (TiVo?), redistributes the source code with the modifications but under the same license ("...GPLv2 or any later version"), and then you leverage that you have accepted the software under any later version (GPLv3 specifically) to legally force the manufacturer to release encryption keys and free up any patents he owns.

        And then you get laughed out of court.

        Seriously, do you people even bother to try to understand something before you spout garbage like this?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geoffspear (692508)
      Given the GPLv3 (however it's written) cannot reduce the liberty provided by the GPLv2

      Sure it can. If you grant me the right to redistribute a derivative work from something you've written under GPLv2 or later, and GPLv3 says I can sell a work without providing any source whatsoever, you can't stop me from taking your work and releasing a closed source product using your source. I don't think "however it's written" means what you think it means. Even if you firmly believe that GPLv3 will do no such th
      • by crosbie (446285)
        A later version cannot reduce the licensee's liberty, but yes, I suppose it could reduce the obligations imposed on the licensee to preserve liberty for their licensees.

        However, that would indicate that FSF had completely lost the plot - no sign of that so far.

        So, yes, I will concede that a later version of the GPL could end up reducing the PUBLIC's liberty (even if it cannot reduce the licensee's liberty).
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by geoffspear (692508)
          Unless RMS is being a total hypocrite by not sharing the secret to immortality he's discovered with anyone outside the FSF, no one can really predict whether or not the FSF will one day change into something completely different, but retain the right to release licenses called "GPL".

          In any event, anyone releasing software under the GPL whose primary concern isn't with the Public's right to use their software and any future revisions thereof is probably missing the point of the license.
  • Doublespeak (Score:5, Informative)

    by spiritraveller (641174) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @12:20PM (#17459094)
    Kaj Arno, MySQL VP of community relations, revealed the license change on his blog, on December 22, noting that the license for MySQL 5.0 and 5.1 had changed from "GPLv2 or later" to "GPLv2 only". As he explained, this was "in order to make it an option, not an obligation for the company to move to GPLv3".

    To be more clear, what they have done was **take away the option** for other people to distribute the code under a GPL version higher than GPL2. Under the old wording, the company has no obligation to distribute their code under GPL3, even after GPL3 is released.

    MySQL AB could continue distributing the code under GPL2 and leave others with the option of distributing their derivatives of it under GPL3. So their concern is what **other people** might do with their code, and has nothing to do with MySQL AB being forced to do anything.

    What they are actually concerned with is a forking of their project by a group of developers who prefer GPL3 over GPL2. Anyone so inclined could still create such a fork using a version of MySQL distributed under the old wording (including the most recent current versions, if they received the code under the old license). They just wouldn't be able to use any code from MySQL that came after the license change. It would have to be a clean break, with no sharing of code after the license change.
  • A little late ! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by redelm (54142)
    It appears that MySQL has just woken up to the odd GPLv2 clause giving users the right to apply a later version at their option. Who could possibly accept such an unknown clause? Linus can't, and hasn't. I doubt Linux could be moved to GPLv3 even if he wanted to -- too many authors.

    As for the danger of GPL subversion, it is clear and present: RMS could and would insert "As oversight authority, the FSF is party to this licence and may sue for enforcment" [@11 ur baze b3l0ng 2me]

    • It appears that MySQL has just woken up to the odd GPLv2 clause giving users the right to apply a later version at their option. Who could possibly accept such an unknown clause? Linus can't, and hasn't. I doubt Linux could be moved to GPLv3 even if he wanted to -- too many authors.

      The clause giving users the right to apply a later version is neither unknown, nor part of the GPL. Rather, anyone who distributes their code under the GPL has the choice of allowing his users to use a later license or not. Tha
      • by redelm (54142)
        Yes, needing all contributors permission (or rewriting their code) was what I meant about Linux not being moveable. The boilerplate (copyright/licence) distributed with GPLv2 includes the "or any later version" so tends to be the default.

        The FSF _could_ make itself party to a future GPL simply by issuing the licence including itself in the terms. A coder would make the FSF party by licencing under such. This would give RMS standing to sue NVidia over the Linux graphics module being [allegedly] a derivat

  • Quietly? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iandunn (538656) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @12:24PM (#17459182) Homepage

    "MySQL has quietly changed the license it uses... VP of community relations, revealed the license change on his blog..."

    How does the VP of community relations announcing it on his blog qualify as 'quietly changing'? What do you want them to do, throw a bloody parade? Not everything is a secret plot to destroy OSS.

  • Yeah... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeremiah Stoddard (876771) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @12:42PM (#17459502) Homepage Journal
    They wanted to get around that ugly part of the GPL that says "and when GPL v3 comes out, this software must be distributed according to its terms."

    Unfortunately, I can't quite find it anywhere in the license, though everyone keeps complaining about it...
    • by Bob Uhl (30977)
      Exactly. The GPL being about freedom, it states that a user is free to distribute code under the current license, or a future GPL license. MySQL hasn't preserved any option, but has instead taken away an option. Corporate doublespeak at its finest.
  • A bit offtopic, but since this topic is about the GPL I thought I might be able to get some more information from here.

    Could anyone point me to a good resource/site where I could ask some specific questions about the (commercial) use of GPL-ed code (more specifically the Quake 3 engine source), as the GNU/GPL site [gnu.org] doesn't offer me all my answers I am looking for; And when I contacted them by email with those specific questions, they referred me to talk to a lawyer specialised in this (which I am currently
    • by wrook (134116)
      What questions do you want answered? The FSF is the best place to get general answers about the GPL. If it is not listed there and it isn't obvious from the license itself, then you probably *do* need a lawyer to give you advice.

      I have had several friends ask me about the use of GPL code, so I'll guess what your question was. I'm not a lawyer, though, and this is not legal advice.

      I'm assuming that you want to write non-Free software and use GPL code with it (it might be a good idea to refrain from using
  • Oxymoronic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MrCopilot (871878) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @01:34PM (#17460606) Homepage Journal
    We are expanding your options by eliminating your options.

    FTFA: MySQL has today refined its licensing scheme from "GPLv2 or later" to "GPLv2 only", in order to make it an option, not an obligation for the company to move to GPLv3.

    Doesn't this specificaly prevent them from using GPLv3 as an option in the future? I mean only means only right.

    • by gclef (96311)
      They own the copyright, they can license it under whatever scheme they like. They could release a future version under the "I get to sleep with your daughter" license, if they liked. What they *can't* do is take back earlier releases, since those were released as GPL. But, since MySQL AB own the copyright, they can do whatever they like with it going forward. It's their code.
    • They own the copyright to all code they accept into the source, so they can change it in any way they want at any time. They could change it to BSD, or close the source entirely, if they so wish, and the original authors have no authority to stop them because the copyright was assigned to MySQL, not retained by those authors.*

      * This assumes there was no agreement between the author and MySQL at the time the copyright was assigned, which specified that the code could only ever be licensed under GPL vX. If
  • I don't understand the reason why so many people are shying away from GPL3. To me it seems a pretty logical upgrade to GPL2 and makes it even harder for businesses to openly thwart the spirit of free software. To be honest, I've always been annoyed by the fuss made over licenses.

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