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Monty Program AB's Suggestion to EU Commission to Get Rid of the GPL on MySQL - Updated
Tuesday, December 08 2009 @ 12:30 PM EST

I will now share with you a small section of the Monty Program AB's submission to the EU Commission, including its suggestion to replace the GPL with a more proprietary-friendly license, specifically the Apache license.

I mentioned it in my first article on the Oracle/Sun deal, telling you that the submission [PDF] they made public wasn't the only one:

But that isn't the only submission they have made. They suggested to the EU Commission in a questionnaire submitted by an August 13th deadline that the license on MySQL be changed to the Apache License. It was sent to me, along with others in the press, to educate us on the issues.
It seems some in the media contacted Florian Mueller, and he apparently denied the accuracy of what I wrote. So let me show you just this one piece of the document I was describing, and I'll let you decide for yourself, from page 19:
We would like to draw attention to the fact that some major concerns about the effects of the proposed transaction could be somewhat alleviated by requiring that all versions of MySQL source code previously released under the GPLv2 license ...must be released under a more liberal open source license that is usable also by the OEM users and would also create an opportunity for other service vendors to compete with offerings comparable to MySQL Enterprise. A good candidate is the Apache Software License.
So. Did I tell you the truth or not?

The document that they made public is a narrative. But the EU Commission also has a number of questions they posed in a questionnaire. The document I was referencing is titled "COMP/M.5529 -- ORACLE/SUN, Questionnaire to Competitors Databases, Deadline for reply: 13 August 2009." It begins with a Preliminary Note:
We are providing this questionnaire accompanied by another document named "COMP M 5529 Req to protect disruptive innovation.pdf", hereinafter referred to as the "supplementary document" for referencing purposes.

The replies in this document are self-sufficient, but select references to the supplementary document point to more detailed and coherent information on certain topics.

So, this document is the real one, the main submission, and the document they have shared with the public, "COMP M 5529 Req to protect disruptive innovation.pdf", is the supplementary document, amplifying and providing a more detailed narrative. As I mentioned, some in the media were given both documents. I was. And Florian tells me that he knew it was being given to me.

On the first page, they describe what Monty Program AB does, namely provide support for MySQL and develop features for their fork of MySQL that are not found in MySQL itself, and here is their hope for the future:

Michael Widenius is the founder of the Open Database Alliance, through which we plan to establish a market around MariaDB/MySQL for support, training, tuning, optimization and customization of databases, database tools and also development of software that utilizes databases. Our vision is to get hundreds of small and medium-sized companies to join, which would provide a lot of work opportunities and also help to keep up the infrastructure around MySQL. The extent to which these plans can materialize will heavily depend on the future of MySQL itself.
So that is why they care. They have big plans for a business around MySQL, and they want to make some money from it. MariaDB is their fork of MySQL. Of course, there's nothing wrong with making money. Notice the role of the Open Database Alliance in all this, in case anyone tells you there is no connection. There is.

So, what stands in their way? In their mind, the GPL. They scorn the idea of a community project of GPL'd code and view Linux's commercial success, despite it being GPL code, as an aberration. What did they tell the EU Commission about licenses, then, and how to make money from FOSS? That the two most successful open source business models are dual licensing, like MySQL, or open core, as in EnterpriseDB, the core of the code being open source, but with proprietary modules, and that is what they want to turn MySQL into:

Outside of the business of Linux distributions (aggregation of thousands of software packages into a single supported product), dual licensing has historically been the most successful business model for Open Source companies, and was largely popularized by MySQL. It combines most benefits of open source with a traditional licensing revenue. The main advantage of licensing revenue is that unlike many other Open Source business models, it is not strongly dependent on the company's headcount or other factors driving up fixed costs, unlike service-based models such as consulting, support and contract engineering.

Even so, there have been many other successful open source business models that do not use this approach. A comparably successful model (used in particular by IBM for Java middleware, EnterpriseDB for databases) is known as open-core, which combines closed source modules with the open source core software. This business model is possible with open source licenses like Apache or BSD, but not on the basis of the GPL, which is presently used for MySQL....

That's on page 16. Then on page 19, when asked to provide any other comments on the proposed Oracle/Sun deal, they wrote this, the actual suggestion of the change, and here it is in full and in context:
We would like to draw attention to the fact that some major concerns about the effects of the proposed transaction could be somewhat alleviated by requiring that all versions of MySQL source code previously released under the GPLv2 license (whether in a General Availability, Release Candidate, Beta, Alpha release, or as public bazaar or bitkeeper revision control trees) must be released under a more liberal open source license that is usable also by the OEM users and would also create an opportuity for other service vendors to compete with offerings comparable to MySQL Enterprise. A good candidate is the Apache Software License.

We believe this could be a FOSS-specific approach to addressing the ownership of some of the key assets involved, as an alternative to conventional conditions imposed on such transactions.

Section 5.5 of the supplementary document discusses this possible measure.

So there you have it. They absolutely did suggest that the license should be changed from the GPL to another license, suggesting the Apache license as the best candidate. In fact, they used the word "must". Even the public submission included this:
The "copyleft/infection" principle of the GPL license represents a particular obstacle not only to revenue generation by the fork vendor but also to the overall adoption and market penetration of MySQL, MySQL forks and MySQL storage engines....

Under such open source licenses as the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) license and the Apache license, proprietary derivatives are legal. The only obligation might be attribution.

So, they view the GPL as a hindrance to their business opportunities. They argue that some large vendor must take MySQL over, but not Oracle. I wonder who they have in mind? SAP maybe? Is SAP a member of the Linux Foundation or OIN? Does it have any FOSS credibility at all? Who would be better? Some other Microsoft partner? Seriously. Who? They should have to tell us, I think, who they would view as a "suitable" purchaser. Otherwise, some of us, like me, will probably assume they have an agenda that isn't so FOSS friendly and this entire episode is just another attempt to strangle the GPL and kill off MySQL as a competition threat to Microsoft. I already do view it that way, actually. I view this not as an effort to protect MySQL, but to take it proprietary by getting rid of the barrier to the theft of the code, the GPL.

By the way, I have two questions. First, on what basis would anyone have the right to deny Oracle the dual-licensing business model if it pays for the MySQL copyrights? All prior owners had that exclusive right. MySQL, when it owned all the copyrights, was the only one allowed to do a proprietary version. Sun, after it purchased MySQL, then had that same right. Why shouldn't Oracle have a similar right if it pays millions for the copyrights, and why does it suddenly become a danger, dual licensing? And what is the difference? That Monty Program AB has plans for a competing business? Let them pay for all the copyrights then. That's how it works. And whoever does that gets the right to sell certain pluses that you don't get for free.

Second, has anybody mentioned the MySQL FOSS Exception to the EU Commission? If folks are going to talk about interoperability issues with the GPL, I think they should at least point out that the exception allows "distribution of certain MySQL Client Libraries with a developerís FOSS applications licensed under the terms of another FOSS license listed below, even though such other FOSS license may be incompatible with the GPL."

In other words, it "permits use of the GPL-licensed MySQL Client Libraries with software applications licensed under certain other FOSS licenses without causing the entire derivative work to be subject to the GPL." Here's the list:

Release Early - Certified Software
Academic Free License - 2.0
Apache Software License - 1.0/1.1/2.0
Apple Public Source License - 2.0
Artistic license - From Perl 5.8.0
BSD license - "July 22 1999"
Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL) - 1.0
Common Public License - 1.0
Eclipse Public License - 1.0
GNU Library or "Lesser" General Public License (LGPL) - 2.0/2.1/3.0
Jabber Open Source License - 1.0
MIT License (As listed in file MIT-License.txt) -
Mozilla Public License (MPL) - 1.0/1.1
Open Software License - 2.0
OpenSSL license (with original SSLeay license) - "2003" ("1998")
PHP License - 3.0/3.01
Python license (CNRI Python License) -
Python Software Foundation License - 2.1.1
Sleepycat License - "1999"
University of Illinois/NCSA Open Source License -
W3C License - "2001"
X11 License - "2001"
Zlib/libpng License -
Zope Public License - 2.0
There are some limitations ("The FOSS License Exception does not apply to the MySQL database server ..."), but it's really quite flexible otherwise. The only thing you can't do, if I've understood the language ("You distribute Independent Works in object code or executable form with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code on the same medium and under the same FOSS license applying to the object code or executable forms"), is refuse to provide source, under the exception. And that's what proprietary folks hate. They want the GPL'd code, but they don't want to abide by the license terms. They only like the Apache and BSD licenses because they can take the code dark. Even when you fudge things and allow other Open Source licenses in derivative works without triggering the GPL's requirements to make your code GPL too, as MySQL did, they are still not satisfied.

So, that should tell us what this Monty opposition is about. I don't view it as protecting Open Source. Clearly it's not about protecting the GPL'd version of MySQL. Let's be clear about that. It has to do with making money from Open Source code, but by forcing it to go proprietary, open core, in effect. A cunning plan, to use the EU Commission to accomplish such a goal.

That's their dream, as I see it. Is it yours? It surely isn't mine.

Update: Reuters reports that Microsoft and SAP and Monty Widenius will be at the meeting on the 10th at the EU Commission, and not a single customer. Oracle has eight customers committed to being there to support Oracle's position. Eben Moglen will also participate.


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