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RMS opposes Oracle acquisition of MySQL

RMS and some other open source advocates are urging the EC to prevent Oracle from taking over MySQL. Here’s why the GPL is inadequate to preserve MySQL, in their estimation:

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.

The acquisition of MySQL by Oracle will be a major setback to the development of a FLOSS database platform, potentially alienating and dispersing MySQL’s core community of developers. It could take several years before another database platform could rival the progress and opportunities now available to MySQL, because it will take time before any of them attract and cultivate a large enough team of developers and achieve a similar customer base.

Their conclusion is not obviously insane:

We recognize the support Sun provides to increase competition in numerous markets through its support of FLOSS and open standards. We also recognize that Oracle’s acquisition of Sun may be essential for Sun’s survival. However, Oracle should not be allowed to harm consumer interests in the database market by weakening the competition provided by MySQL. For the reasons elucidated above, we ask that you block Oracle’s acquisition of MySQL.

2 Comments

  1. What RMS is not acknowledging here is the fact that the “parallel licensing” that MySQL is actually a competitive disadvantage at this point.

    As long as MySQL or its owner chooses to rely on that model, it will be a disadvantage relative to forks which have no such limitations.

    Which is why I would also dispute the claim that “It could take several years before another database platform could rival the progress and opportunities now available to MySQL.” This seems unlikely in a world in which technically competitive and even superior forks already exist today.

  2. PostgreSQL: The world’s most advanced open source database. At least that’s what their tag line says. I’m cool with MySQL, but I don’t think it’s quite as bad as they are making it out to be. I’m no friend of Oracle’s pricing on their core DB products, but they have a right to pursue their business as they see fit. It’s up to consumers to buy or not buy their products as they see fit. Free market economies just kinda work that way.

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