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Re: [Matt Asay Tells The Truth] Stallman: GPL doesn't guarantee software


From: Tim Smith
Subject: Re: [Matt Asay Tells The Truth] Stallman: GPL doesn't guarantee software freedom
Date: Wed, 21 Oct 2009 11:15:05 -0700
User-agent: MT-NewsWatcher/3.5.3b2 (Intel Mac OS X)

In article <address@hidden>, Alan Mackenzie <address@hidden> 
wrote:

> In gnu.misc.discuss Alexander Terekhov <address@hidden> wrote:
> 
> > Stallman told the European Commission that 
> 
> > "the lack of a more flexible license for MySQL will present considerable
> > barriers to a new forked development path for MySQL"
> 
> THis is nothing new.  The FSF's recommendation has always been "GPL version N,
> or any later version".  This is a prime example of what happens when such a
> recommendation is disregarded.

>From the letter to Commission:

   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.

They aren't talking about the lack of "or any later version" here. 
Indeed, if MySQL were licensed under "GPLv2 or any later version", it 
would make no difference whatsoever in their above argument, since it 
would still be only Oracle that could sell commercial licenses.

Slightly later in the letter, they talk about the GPLv3 issue as an 
additional problem that will make forking hard:

   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.


-- 
--Tim Smith


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