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Brian Aker Responds To RMS On Dual Licensing 212

Posted by timothy
from the up-close-and-personal dept.
krow (Brian Aker, long-time MySQL developer) writes "Richard Stallman's comments on the Oracle Acquisition of Sun left me scratching my head over his continued support of closed-source licensing around open source software. Having spent more than a decade in the MySQL community, I feel that his understanding of the dual-license model is limited, and is at odds with his advocacy of free software. For this reason, I believe his recent statements concerning it need to be addressed. By pushing for the right to turn GPL-licensed software into the heart of a proprietary business model, he is squandering an opportunity for advocacy of open source within the European Union."
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Brian Aker Responds To RMS On Dual Licensing

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 22, 2009 @03:57PM (#29839387)
    Just one random examples - I believe these guys' hardware uses licensed MySQL technology for internal databases in their hardware: http://arubanetworks.com/ [arubanetworks.com]
  • by Predius (560344) <josh.coombs@gma i l . com> on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:02PM (#29839431)

    Yes, there is. The problem RMS is pointing out, is if Oracle basically shutters MySQL after acquiring it, as the owners of the primary license they can prevent MySQL from ever having a GPLv3 release, or any further closed source releases to fund further development. MySQL forks at that point will be locked into GPLv2 without the option of closed source releases to help fund further development.

  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:15PM (#29839573) Homepage

    Groklaw has an interesting take [groklaw.net] on this, full of conspiracy theories.

    See, for example, this comment [groklaw.net], where PJ is talking about Monty, and says:

    I have come to suspect he's a double agent. And I believe the beneficiary will be Microsoft.

    Wow

  • by harmonise (1484057) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:20PM (#29839635)

    By pushing for the right to turn GPL-licensed software into the heart of a proprietary business model, he is squandering an opportunity for advocacy of open source within the European Union.

    RMS could not care less about open source. He only cares about free software. There's a difference and he will go to great pains to point out the difference if you engage him using the term "open source." If you are going to respond to him, the least you can do is use the terminology correctly. Otherwise he'll interpret what you say differently than what you probably meant.

  • Re:So what (Score:5, Informative)

    by Microlith (54737) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:23PM (#29839663)

    Your trollish demeanor aside, the GPL is nothing like a standard EULA.

    In fact, using GPL software is much like reading a book. The issues of copyright never come into play until you get it in your head that you wish to redistribute the work in question. Copyright says "no you can't, go talk to the copyright holder" while the GPL says "yes, under these terms. If you don't like them, Copyright says no you can't, go talk to the copyright holder."

    Whereas proprietary software requires you read and accept a license before using it. Completely unlike a book.

    Hopefully you will understand Stallman and the GPL better now, or I will have to apologize for feeding a troll.

  • You're confused. (Score:5, Informative)

    by XanC (644172) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:26PM (#29839679)

    The GPL is not an EULA. In your book example, you can buy, read, resell, etc, the book in question. Exactly what you can do with any software, barring (possibly) an EULA.

    You can certainly do all that with GPL software without ever reading or agreeing to the GPL. Agreement is not required for use.

    Other actions, such as making and distributing copies, are restricted by copyright law, and apply to books as well as software regardless of license. The GPL happens to be a license which allows copying and redistribution, actions which are otherwise forbidden by copyright. You only must agree to GPL when you take action that bumps against copyright law.

  • Re:So what (Score:5, Informative)

    by benjamindees (441808) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:26PM (#29839685) Homepage

    You are conflating a "usage" license with a "distribution" license. I agree that the former is completely inane. But the latter is a necessary extension of the concept of copyright, and the basis of the GPLv2.

  • by DAldredge (2353) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:26PM (#29839687) Journal
    That is because everything wrong in the world is the fault of Microsoft according to PJ.
  • Re:So what (Score:5, Informative)

    by Abcd1234 (188840) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:27PM (#29839699) Homepage

    While I agree that RMS is an ideologue of the worst kind, you're completely off base here:

    Have you ever bought a book? Furniture? Clothing? A toaster, microwave or television? Did you have to agree to a license before you could use any of these items?

    No. But guess what? The GPL doesn't require that, either.

    The GPL, like all copyright licenses, is a *redistribution* license. ie, when you *redistribute* the software, at *that* point you are bound by the terms of the GPL, as it is under those terms that you are granted the right to redistribution.

    What you're talking about is a EULA, and I don't believe it's clear that those are even enforceable (and whether or not they are almost certainly depends on the state/province/country you live in). And certainly EULAs have absolutely no grounding in copyright law (which, as I say, is concerned with redistribution).

  • Re:So what (Score:4, Informative)

    by Knuckles (8964) <knuckles&dantian,org> on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:27PM (#29839703)

    Did you have to agree to a license before you could use any of these items? NO.

    Are you serious? Maybe you should read the GPL before passing public judgment on it.

    Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not covered by this License; they are outside its scope. The act of running the Program is not restricted, and the output from the Program is covered only if its contents constitute a work based on the Program (independent of having been made by running the Program).

          -- GPLv2 [gnu.org]

  • by jonbryce (703250) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:28PM (#29839707) Homepage

    Quite a lot of the GNU software is owned by the Free Software Foundation. Apache, Mozilla, X.org and Samba are owned by their respective foundations. OpenOffice.org and MySQL are owned by Sun.

    The only major project on a typical distro I can think of that is owned by the individual contributors is linux.

  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:29PM (#29839721) Homepage

    The letter from Stallman and the others discussed two ways in which forking MySQL would be hard. One was because it is under GPLv2 without the "or later" option, so cannot mix with GPLv3 code. That a pretty irrelevant point, though, because the problem lies entirely with GPLv3's lack of compatibility wity other free licenses, such as GPLv2.

    The other problem the letter mentions, though, has nothing to do with GPLv3 vs GPLv2. Here is how they describe the problem. I'll include the GPLv3 argument for completeness:

    Defenders of the Oracle acquisition of its competitor naively say Oracle cannot harm MySQL, because a free version of the software is available to anyone under GNU GPL version 2.0, and if Oracle is not a good host for the GPL version of the code, future development will be taken up by other businesses and individual programmers, who could freely and easily "fork" the GPL'd code into a new platform. This defense fails for the reasons that follow.

    MySQL uses the parallel licensing approach to generate revenue to continue the FLOSS development of the software. If Oracle acquired MySQL, it would then be the only entity able to release the code other than under the GPL. Oracle would not be obligated to diligently sell or reasonably price the MySQL commercial licenses. More importantly, Oracle is under no obligation to use the revenues from these licenses to advance MySQL. In making decisions in these matters, Oracle is facing an obvious conflict of interest – the continued development of a powerful, feature rich free alternative to its core product.

    As only the original rights holder can sell commercial licenses, no new forked version of the code will have the ability to practice the parallel licensing approach, and will not easily generate the resources to support continued development of the MySQL platform.

    The acquisition of MySQL by Oracle will be a major setback to the development of a FLOSS database platform, potentially alienating and dispersing MySQL's core community of developers. It could take several years before another database platform could rival the progress and opportunities now available to MySQL, because it will take time before any of them attract and cultivate a large enough team of developers and achieve a similar customer base.

    Yet another way in which Oracle will have the ability to determine the forking of MySQL relates to the evolution of the GNU GPL license. GPL version 2.0 (GPLv2) and GPL version 3.0 (GPLv3) are different licenses and each requires that any modified program carry the same license as the original. There are fundamental and unavoidable legal obstacles to combining code from programs licensed under the different GPL versions. Today MySQL is only available to the public under GPLv2.

    Many other FLOSS software projects are expected to move to GPLv3, often automatically due to the common use of the "any later version" clause. Because the current MySQL license lacks that clause, it will remain GPLv2 only and it will not be possible to combine its code with the code of many GPLv3- covered projects in the future. Given that forking of the MySQL code base will be particularly dependent on FLOSS community contributions - more so than on in-company development - the lack of a more flexible license for MySQL will present considerable barriers to a new forked development path for MySQL.

    I'm assuming that hell has frozen over, because the first argument is that forking won't work because the GPL does not let the forker use the dual licensing model to make money, and that letter [keionline.org] is signed by Stallman.

  • by jonbryce (703250) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:31PM (#29839737) Homepage

    The EU could make it a condition of the takeover that they sell either the Oracle Database or the MySQL Database to a third party. That sort of thing quite often happens in anti-trust investigations.

    They won't be directly concerned about keeping MySQL free and open source, but they may be concerned that having two major database servers owned by the same company reduces competition.

  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:33PM (#29839767) Homepage Journal

    Did you have to agree to a license before you could use any of these items? NO.

    Things don't work the way you think. The book you bought had a license, you simply did not have to agree to it. You're bound to it anyway.

  • Re:So what (Score:3, Informative)

    by wastedlife (1319259) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:36PM (#29839791) Homepage Journal

    Erm, the GPL is a distribution license. You are free to run, modify, print and use as toilet paper, or do whatever as long as you do not distribute. If you wish to distribute the code, you need to follow the license and include your changes with it. I think even the biggest FLOSS zealots understand this. Why can't you?

    As for this:

    Have you ever bought a book? Furniture? Clothing? A toaster, microwave or television? Did you have to agree to a license before you could use any of these items? NO.

    You don't have to with GPL code either. If you were to copy the book, or make knock-off furniture or clothing and then sold or distributed, you could likely be sued for it. If you sell or distribute GPL code, you just have to follow the license.

  • by nullchar (446050) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:38PM (#29839823)

    What about this clause that is attached to the GPL in the MySQL code?

    This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or
    modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License
    as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2
    of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

  • by vertinox (846076) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @04:54PM (#29840015)

    RMS could not care less about open source. He only cares about free software.

    Well yeah... What is the use of have access to the source code when the license forbids you to modify it?

    That's the different between Open Source Software and Free Open Source Software. I mean Microsoft releases source code to 3rd parties all the time but the strings attached to the code are pretty brutal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 22, 2009 @05:03PM (#29840119)

    From what I understand MySQL is distributed under a modified GPLv2 license. The principle modification being the removal of the "any later version" clause.

  • by aztracker1 (702135) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @05:14PM (#29840213) Homepage

    You don't buy a license for a book, you buy a physical copy of a book's content. Copyright law says you can't make copies of a protected work and distribute them.

  • by broken_chaos (1188549) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @05:39PM (#29840507)

    The principle modification being the removal of the "any later version" clause.

    Just checked a fresh download of the MySQL 5.1.40 source. This statement is correct – the random sampling of source files I checked do not contain the "or later" clause in the licence notification.

  • by Draek (916851) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @05:51PM (#29840645)

    Wrong. The BSD license and its ilk *are* Free Software licenses, they're just not "copyleft" which is a desirable but not vital quality as far as RMS is concerned. The ones that are OSS-but-not-Free are those like the license of Pine which disallows redistribution of modified works, or some of Microsoft's Shared Source licenses which disallow commercial redistribution at all.

    If you wish, you can educate yourself further here [fsf.org], and the FSF's definition of Free Software here [fsf.org].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 22, 2009 @07:10PM (#29841329)
    We can think for ourselves, thank you.
  • by christurkel (520220) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @07:11PM (#29841343) Homepage Journal
    People also forget he champions free as in speech software. He's never been anti commercial.
  • by Draek (916851) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @08:19PM (#29841815)

    The original BSD license is listed under "GPL-Incompatible Free Software Licenses", while the revised one is under "GPL-Compatible Free Software Licenses" alongside RMS's own GPL so yes, both are considered Free Software licenses by the FSF.

    And I can't see why it'd be wrong for RMS to claim the modified BSD license is ethical, unless you wish to imply he implies its an ethically-inferior choice compared to the GPL which as my link above proves its not the case. Stallman has said many times that the copyleft requirements of the GPL are due to practical concerns, rather than ethical ones.

  • by krow (129804) * <`brian' `at' `tangent.org'> on Thursday October 22, 2009 @08:26PM (#29841841) Homepage Journal

    Hi!

    I am not sure where in histrory you will find that I have ever advocated for dual licence, since it is well known that I do not for work which I personally do (aka if you check you will find that I lean toward BSD).

    Also, I believe people are free to do whatever they like with what they produce. No company doing original work should feel that they have to open source it.

    What I object to is Richard's comments which I find counter to the notion at what is at the center of notion of the gpl. I seem to remember the fsf suggesting once that developers assign copyright to them to block dual license strategies. Richard's current statement seems at odds with this.

    You are welcome to do whatever you like with whatever you write Bruce, but I wouldn't suggest that other developers contribute their work to you, just so that you can change the license and make a buck off them.

  • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Thursday October 22, 2009 @09:03PM (#29841971) Homepage

    Actually, pointing out why Open Source misses the point of Free Software [gnu.org] isn't pedantic or irrelevant, these differences are real and they explain why RMS takes the position you just pointed out.

    RMS, as you rightly point out, understands that non-free software which eventually becomes free software is significantly better than non-free software that stays non-free forever because the former leads to eventually respecting our software freedom while the other can lead to our loss of software freedom. The open source movement is interested in a development methodology aimed primarily at businesses, not framing issues in terms of user's software freedom. Open source proponents aren't taught to think in terms of user's software freedom. This too can lead to the loss of software freedom. So whenever someone licenses a non-free program, open source advocates have little reason to object despite how that chips away at our freedom (from the aforementioned essay, "This attitude will reward schemes that take away our freedom, leading to its loss."). Free software activists, on the other hand, lament the disrespect for user's freedom which motivates them to support a project to develop a free replacement so that everyone can do that job whilst retaining their software freedom. Finally, as for the GPL: RMS wrote the GPL with user's freedoms in mind. The reason we enjoy the freedoms you champion at the end of your post is precisely because RMS pays attention to all computer user's software freedom. Had he taken an interest in mere development methodology instead, proprietary derivatives might be far more common than they are.

  • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @09:33PM (#29842087) Homepage Journal
    I don't think your argument holds.

    If the book is generally available then it clearly isn't a trade secret and I wouldn't need a licence, implied or otherwise, to be protected from being (successfully) prosecuted under trade secret law.
  • by cheesybagel (670288) on Friday October 23, 2009 @06:04AM (#29843949)
    The MySQL model was not radically different from how Aladdin Ghostscript [devlinux.org] used to be released. Stallman tolerated that licensing model as a necessary evil. So it would be non-coherent for him to be against the MySQL model. RMS is a pretty cohesive guy in his ideas. He is also more flexible about revenue creation models for free software than people give him credit for.
  • by dangitman (862676) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:17PM (#29850889)
    Citation provided: [fsfe.org]

    Audience member: [...] in this new World, and you're talking about GPL going over to the next version, how do you see proprietary software businesses making a profit?

    Richard Stallman: That's unethical, they shouldn't be making any money. I hope to see all proprietary software wiped out. That's what I aim for. That would be a World in which our freedom is respected. A proprietary program is a program that is not free. That is to say, a program that does respect the user's essential rights. That's evil. A proprietary program is part of a predatory scheme where people who don't value their freedom are drawn into giving it up in order to gain some kind of practical convenience. And then once they're there, it's harder and harder to get out. Our goal is to rescue people from this.

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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