ed phillips on Sun, 29 Feb 2004 14:30:55 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> floss enforcement/compliance

Thanks Ben and Novica,

I'm not knocking MySQL for making money or for having a commercial
license in addition to a GPL version. In fact, a few years ago,
I contributed in some small ways to the MySQL project myself.
I think highly of Monty, etc. I wish them continued success.

In fact, however, their licensing literature *is* incorrect on the
small point of inter-organizational redistribution of MySQL and
modifications to it or programs that use it.

A relevant passage from the gpl-faq covers this issue:

"The GPL does not require you to release your modified version. You are free to make modifications and use them privately, without ever releasing them. This applies to organizations (including companies), too; an organization can make a modified version and use it internally without ever releasing it outside the organization.

But if you release the modified version to the public in some way, the GPL requires you to make the modified source code available to the program's users, under the GPL."

There is absolutely no aspect of the GPL that binds you to release
your modifications as GPL software, unless you release your program to
the public.

As a long time zealot for free software, I don't see how the release
of every trivial application that uses free software could be of
benefit at this point. In fact we may have been better off if the
Slash code for example had never been released. 

Mature free software projects benefit from extensive peer review and
the promotion and use of best practices in software development. They
also serve, most importantly I believe, as a way to promote and
develop literacy. The releasing of trivial and half baked applications
often lead to the spread of poor practices and bad habits.

Certainly, I wouldn't want to restrict anyone's right to release even
the ugliest hack, but neither would I call it a great benefit to the

Nor am I concerned with my own compliance or non-compliance here. I've
never sold a whit of software, nor do I plan to. I find most of the
supposed intellectual property that some software companies attempt to
hold on to to be laughable. Most of them are hiding their bad ideas from
the glare of peer review.

So to continue with the example that I began with: If you are the
government of Extremadura and you need to release an application to
all your far flung Linux servers that
does foo and stores bar in a MySQL database, you are free to
distribute this on all your computers without formally having to
inflict the ugly, just good enough to get the job done hack on the
rest of us. Nor do you have to pay MySQL 450 or whatever dollars per
install of the application.

It seems to me that the biggest benefit again of free software is the
way that it helps develop literacy and spread knowledge.

It is interesting, nonetheless, to see MySQL attempt to use a kind of hybrid
dual license business model. I think they are doing quite well and I
wish them well.

Scriptics, Jon Ousterhout's TCL company, attempted a kind of hybrid
approach that ultimately failed for them. I was there when Richard
Stallman quite dramatically called them parasites for attempting such.
It was different in that TCL was not GPLed and that Ousterhout was
attempting to sell proprietary tools on top of TCL. I thought at the
time that it was an interesting approach for Jon to attempt, but that
the model would probably decrease contributions from the community of

It is interesting to see an attempt at a free software, propietary

On Sat, Feb 28, 2004 at 01:33:58PM +0000, Benjamin Geer wrote:

> ed phillips wrote:
> >I'm curious. They seem in their licensing literature(
> >http://www.mysql.com/products/opensource-license.html )
> >to be trying to scare non-Linux users, companies, and government
> >organizations into purchasing commercial licenses.
> I thought MySQL's interpretation of the GPL seemed strange at first, but 
> now it seems to me that they're right, since they recently switched the 
> licence of their client libraries from LGPL to GPL:
> http://www.mysql.com/products/licensing-faq.html

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