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02.28.08

Software Patents and Tax; Is Sun Messing with MySQL’s Mind?

Posted in Database, Free/Libre Software, Patents, SUN at 1:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

No matter how much denial there will be, it is becoming clear that Microsoft’s plan is to apply tax to Free software, rendering it Fee [sic] software. Ironically, at least in some sense, is that fact that taxation is the very same thing which now puts at jeopardy the notion and validly of software patents, without which there cannot be a ‘tax’ on Free software. Have a look at this article from Microsoft's universe of the Web (originally BusinessWeek, which forbids linking to):

The Internal Revenue Service has proposed new rules that would pull within its orbit any software patent that affects taxes, likely choking innovation.

Published in the LA Times, the following opinion piece questions the notion of "intellectual monopolies" in general and also raises the point that no government tax is applied to them, which indeed concurs with the observation that they cannot be property. It becomes rather philosophical.

In essence, Sigfrid is saying that something in unlimited supply can’t be stolen. His position is a variation on a theme advanced by Mike Masnick of Techdirt.com, among others: that the entertainment industry’s aggressive copyright-enforcement efforts spring from an outdated, analog-era notion of scarcity. Under this view, copyright holders are helped, not harmed, by file sharing and other online distribution pipelines; they just haven’t adapted their business models to take advantage of the new opportunities. Supporters of this view include musicians, authors and filmmakers who say that that file sharing helped bring the exposure they needed to sell their works.

Getting back to the key issue at hand (Free software), when Sun acquired MySQL, the patent question came up (hat tip: Scott Mace). He brings a rather disturbing update:

Go to the MySQL Web site and try to click on the MySQL anti-software patent page, and you won’t find it. It’s the other shoe dropping as MySQL today became part of Sun Microsystems, which like the rest of the commercial software and services industry, considers software patents a necessary evil.

On the brighter side of things, MySQL is more likely to go GPLv3, according to CNET.

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9 Comments

  1. Rui Miguel Silva Seabra said,

    February 28, 2008 at 5:12 am

    Gravatar

    Scott Mace has a hopeful UPDATE 2/27/08 9:41 p.m.: Zack Urlocker of MySQL emailed me this evening:

    “Let me find out what happened. We had some pages go missing during the rollout of new systems with the Sun integration earlier this week. We’re trying to fix it all though.”

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 28, 2008 at 5:33 am

    Gravatar

    Rui,

    Earlier on I took a lot at the Web Archive. It seems like after consistent monthly updates by the crawlers, this page ceased to be crawled around August 2007. Sun and MySQL began negotiations like 4 (maybe it was 6) weeks before signing the deal, so I began wondering if the removal (what Zach calls disappearance) was unrelated.

    After that last MySQL oopsie from Matt Aslett (yesterday), it’s important to be careful about jumping the gum, but I really don’t know about this one. A post mortem leaves a trail that none of the two companies can conceal/control, but it seems to support MySQL’s story and stance. They can hopefully resolve this by restoring the page. We shall see…

  3. Scott Mace said,

    February 28, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Gravatar

    Further comments by Simon Phipps on my blog leave me with little hope that the MySQL anti-software-patent page will return.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 28, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Gravatar

    Oh, I see it now. I asked him about it several hours ago.

    “Sun’s position in court can be weakened by the sort of statement MySQL had posted, hence it’s being re-visited.”

    Blech!

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 28, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Gravatar

    Oh, this gets me thinking:

    “Let me find out what happened. We had some pages go missing during the rollout of new systems with the Sun integration earlier this week. We’re trying to fix it all though.”

    –Zack Urlocker

    Shades of…

    “For security reasons…”

    –Microsoft corporation

    “Packets are just a little slow today on port x..”

    –Comcast

  6. ZUrlocker said,

    March 1, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Gravatar

    Guys,
    when I first responded to Scott via email, that was the first time I found out that the page wasn’t there. So in our rollout of the updated MySQL web site there were a couple of pages that went missing. I must admit, I apologize for not being on top of every page that was consciously or inadvertently dropped. It wasn’t meant as some kind of smokescreen.

    So here’s the latest info:
    We are in the process of updating our patent policy inside of Sun. Yes, it will ultimately be up to Sun’s management team how they manage patents. I think in general Sun has done a good job here and they’ve used their patents primarily for defensive purposes and to indemnify their customers. MySQL also held a modest number of software patents and even still, we took a strong stand against software patents helping to create and fund the the efforts of http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com in Europe.

    At any rate, we’ll update the web pages and try to get more info in the coming weeks. Input is always welcome.

    –Zack

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 1, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Gravatar

    Thanks, Zack. I was hoping to find that accusing lost pages (error) was just a hasty response rather than an excuse.

    There are anti-swpatents initiatives Sun could join and help. Just because Sun has patents doesn’t mean its philosophy should change. Philosophy is to do with rationale, not revenue.

  8. lanika said,

    December 19, 2008 at 1:47 am

    Gravatar

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  9. lanika said,

    December 19, 2008 at 1:49 am

    Gravatar

    The OS Grid is one of several that run the reverse-engineered (but Linden-approved) Open Grid Services / OpenSim software suite. Each has a different goal, but OS Grid is strongly encouraging the creation of a completely free environment, and want to establish a foundation to draw resources (financial and human) to support a free, costless, Second Life-compatible grid.
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