Novica Nakov on Sun, 29 Feb 2004 11:50:41 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> floss enforcement/compliance

ed phillips wrote: 

> Novika,

Missed me by a letter. :)

> You hinted that you are familiar with MySQL?

I was talking about MySQL AB's lawsuit against NuSphere in 2002, for which 
they received help from FSF.

> I'm curious. They seem in their licensing literature (
> )
> to be trying to scare non-Linux users, companies, and government
> organizations into purchasing commercial licenses.

What they are trying to do is earn some money. They are simply saying that
all of those users who want to, are used to and feel safer when they pay
for licenses, should buy their commercial license. Have in mind though
that the use of the word "commercial" in this context is rather ambiguous.
Also the link says that MySQL is available under the GPL. If you know and
obey the GPL you have no problems. The comments that they are making are
somewhat descriptive explanation of the conditions of the GPL. I'll try to
explain some of the things you've written, but IANAL so there might be
some mistakes. If something sounds unclear, that is because sometimes I
can't easily translate all my thoughts in English. :)

> "As long as you never distribute the MySQL software (internally or
> externally) you are free to use it for powering your application,
> irrespective of whether your application is under GPL license or not."
> As far as I have pondered this, this is incorrect or partial. You are
> free to use a GPL application or redistribute it as long as the
> license is intact.

True, you are free to use a GPL application for whatever purpose. The
point here however is the redistribution. Pamela Jones of Groklaw and Eben
Molgen recently wrote some texts on the GPL, explaining that if you only
use GPL software you don't have to accept the license. The license covers
the terms of distribution, copying and modification of the software. So
what MySQL is saying is that if you wish do redistribute (I'm guessing
that this means to use it on more than one PC) you will have to get a
license: the GPL or the commercial one. The last point of their
explanation is: You are allowed to copy MySQL binaries and source code,
but when you do so, the copies will fall under the GPL license. If you
make an application within your company, that application can use the
GPL-ed MySQL. The application doesn't have to be GPL compliant as long as
it stays on your PCs.

> MySQL seems to be saying to its users, either you have the "resources"
> to use the jargon of the trade, to release your application as GPL or
> you buy a commercial license of x hundred dollars per database.
> That seems to be both incorrect and not in the spirit of free
> software.

They are saying that if you wish to sell a product that works with MySQL
and that is not covered by the GPL or a GPL compliant license, you can not
use the GPL-ed MySQL. So it is not incorrect. The word "commercial" still
causes a lot of problems.

Bottom line it is all about what the user knows. I don't have to read all
the explanation that MySQL AB is giving, some of which might be
deliberately put in a confusing manner. All I have to read is that my copy
of MySQL is under the GPL. Then I'll read the license and stay in


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