05.07.08

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MySQL’s Mixed-Source Dilemma

Posted in Database, Finance, Free/Libre Software, GPL, Microsoft, Mono at 10:43 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It was probably a little hasty to say that MySQL remains open source (or Free software, with the GPL). That’s what many headlines state, but not so fast! As Matt Asay quickly pointed out, there is more to this story.

The core will always be 100 percent open source. The periphery…will not. Or might not. It depends.

Novell, which considers itself to be a “mixed -source” company, brings similar questions to mind. It already combines a lot of proprietary software for its clients. Then , consider some of the licensing issues that accompany its Microsoft deal. What about software patents? This possibility of dual-licensing no longer seems so far fetched. Will Novell take a similar route with SUSE Ballnux? Is it not doing this already? Here you have an analysis of dual-licensing as a tool for weakening or revoking the GPL. It’s worth noting because Novell betrayed the GPL more than once before.

Remember, less than 3 months later SUN announced MySQL acquisition.

This paints a summary of what could happen to a DL company even if nobody’s initial commitment is questioned.

* DL Company dies: what happens to the IP/trademarks/licenses?
* DL Company undergoes a change of control: what happens to the community?
* DL company sells/gives its open source interest to a third party…

Shouldn’t we have some sort of open source prenuptial agreement applying to DL companies and their communities?

In this particular context, think about control of projects like Mono or Moonlight and remember the lessons taken from Zimbra [1, 2]. When I corresponded with Marten a couple a weeks ago I was given the impression that they are still exploring possibilities of monetising MySQL a little more effectively.

Novell wants money, but trying to control GNU/Linux as a whole is not the way to go. It’s selfish and it’s harmful. There are other means, except support contracts, for extracting revenue from Free software, as Richard Stallman pointed out a week ago. Here is one new example of this:

Finally, do not expect anyone to do anything for free. Most groups wish to improve on their projects, but having “enough time” is always an issue. Be open to offering money, time, or resources in order to get your problem solved. Realize that for what you offer there may be a down side as well for the project.

Free hardware still has to be installed and properly setup. Money may be an issue because of foreign currency exchanges or because it complicates the individuals taxes. Offering people can be good, but realize that then the project will have to take the burden of training and answering questions.

Having good table manners is the key to working with open source projects.

This is also explained by Savio, who interprets and breaks down Marten’s explanation of the situation:

I’ve been thinking about this statement from Sun/MySQL’s Marten Mickos:

“There’s a difference between organizations that have more time than money and organizations that have more money than time.”

I coming to realize that OSS users split into three, not two, categories:

* A] An organization that has more time than money
* B] An organization that has more money than time but is used to getting what they need for free and is comfortable enough with OSS to rely on their own skills
* C] An organization that has more money than time

Making money from Free (libre) software needn’t involve making some of it proprietary. It totally beats the purpose and cause. It makes it non-Free software. Mindsets must evolve. Consider this good post from Matt Mullenweg for inspiration.

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