I'm getting pretty aggravated by the EU's perpetual blockage of Oracle's acquisition of Sun. All this for MySQL? Don't these guys understand that MySQL is just one product among many in the open source DBMS market? Don't they get that the only folks that might be hurt by this acquisition are Monty Widenius (the founder of the original MySQL company) and his new company, which plans to build a business around MariaDB -- a fork and drop-in replacement for MySQL?
Last Saturday Monty made a plea to "save MySQL". But as it turns out, what he's really asking the EU to do is to force Oracle to revise the license on MySQL from the highly restrictive GPL license to a much more permissive license like Apache or BSD so that he can make money without licensing the code from Oracle. See this great analysis from the folks at Groklaw. I also recommend David Welton's analysis of the deal, and Matt Asay's report.
One of the most ironic things I've seen in this political circus is Richard Stallman asserting that the GPL doesn't actually guarantee software freedom. His logic, though, contradicts all his previous assertions about the freedom supplied by the GPL. The MySQL GPL code is out there and available for anyone to use or fork. The GPL license requires that all such forks must also be licensed under GPL, which ensures that the code will always be free. (Free as in free speech -- not necessarily as in free beer.)
What the GPL really means is that only the copyright owner can make money from the code. (Is that such a bad thing?) Because the original MySQL code is licensed under GPL, and Monty sold his copyright to MySQL, Monty has two options:
- License MariaDB only under GPL and make money via subscription and support contracts
- Buy a less restrictive license from the copyright owner that enables him to include the code in a commercially licensed package.
Monty claims that the first option is not a particularly good business model (although it has worked very well for RedHat and JBoss), and he has expressed concern that Oracle will not provide a less restrictive license at what he deems a reasonable price.
So what? Why should the EU block this deal to protect the rights of one guy that has already made millions from his code base? Why should Oracle be forced to relinquish its control over the copyright of something that they are willing to spend millions to buy? IBM (Oracle's biggest competitor in the DBMS market) has said that "MySQL posed little direct challenge to database products from groups such as IBM and Oracle."
Okay -- Monty has a personal attachment to the MySQL code base. But he could just as easily build his new business based on one of the many other open source databases out there (e.g., SQLite, Derby, PostgreSQL, and Ingres).
Meanwhile, Sun customers using Sparc, Solaris, Glassfish, JCAPS, Identity Manager, etc. have been left hanging in the wind. Let's just hope that the EU listens to reason.
UPDATED 12/16/2009: John Mark Walker weighs in on the discussion: