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Sun Announces New MySQL, Michael Widenius Forks 306

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the this-cracks-me-up dept.
viktor.91 writes "Sun Microsystems announced three new MySQL products: MySQL 5.4, MySQL Cluster 7.0 and MySQL Enterprise Partner Program for 'Remote DBA' service providers." which showed up in the firehose today next to Glyn Moody's submission where he writes "Michael Widenius, founder and original developer of MySQL, says that most of the leading coders for that project have either left Sun or will be leaving in the wake of Oracle's takeover. To ensure MySQL's survival, he wants to fork from the official version — using his company Monty Program Ab to create what he calls a MySQL "Fedora" project. This raises the larger question of who really owns a commercial open software application: the corporate copyright holders, or the community?"
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Sun Announces New MySQL, Michael Widenius Forks

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  • It depends (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raffe (28595) * on Thursday April 23, 2009 @08:34AM (#27686347) Journal

    It depends on the license of the software. Always.

  • by Rary (566291) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @08:37AM (#27686389)

    This raises the larger question of who really owns a commercial open software application: the corporate copyright holders, or the community?

    No one. Or, perhaps, everyone. That's kind of the point, isn't it? It isn't locked into anyone's individual grip.

  • Re:Right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tolan-b (230077) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @08:37AM (#27686395)

    Why would the fork have to stop supporting InnoDB?

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday April 23, 2009 @08:45AM (#27686475) Journal

    This raises the larger question of who really owns a commercial open software application: the corporate copyright holders, or the community?

    No one. Or, perhaps, everyone. That's kind of the point, isn't it? It isn't locked into anyone's individual grip.

    "Open source" is just too broad a term to address this way. You would have to look at individual licenses. On top of that, you have things like Open Office, which is "open source" but clearly controlled by Sun (or Oracle now I guess) [slashdot.org].

    While you claim you can always fork an open source project, it's not always that simple. Especially in massive open source efforts (like Linux) where they have contacts and knowledge that are vital to the project. It isn't possession or control or fiscal ownership but instead a name you've made for yourself as the Father of some project that gives you "ownership" or "rights." And usually the market share of your user base reflects that.

    You'd be surprised how many of your open source solutions are actually controlled and operated by a single entity. And this is great for those products because the entity is usually donating a lot of time and money to it. Should the entity ever drop out, that's when someone can pick up the cross and take it a new direction with everyone helping.

  • by Burkin (1534829) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @08:47AM (#27686495)

    So if Oracle are able to somehow prevent the use of this code, either due to terms of employment of the pricinple devs or by claiming ownership of the code and rescinding the free license, it'll make all these licenses worthless. Oracle has deep pockets. Individual developers don't.

    Unless those principle devs are still working at Oracle they can't do the former, and the latter is only possible on future versions of MySQL so one can fork the last free version of the software and Oracle can't do a damn thing about it.

  • Licenses (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tsotha (720379) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @08:50AM (#27686525)

    To ensure MySQL's survival, he wants to fork from the official version -- using his company Monty Program Ab to create what he calls a MySQL "Fedora" project. This raises the larger question of who really owns a commercial open software application: the corporate copyright holders, or the community?"

    That's what all the lawyering over the license text is all about. This question is one of the more settled questions in the industry.

  • by tolan-b (230077) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @08:50AM (#27686539)

    I have to disagree, I think that would be immensely stupid of them. I think they'll just use it to try to funnel users butting up against its limits towards full Oracle. If they kill it they lose that potential sales channel.

  • by Andy Dodd (701) <.ude.llenroc. .ta. .7dta.> on Thursday April 23, 2009 @08:52AM (#27686557) Homepage

    But what license was the FICS code under? Was it really "open source"?

    There are plenty of licenses that provide for distribution of source but are so restrictive that no one considers them to be "open source".

  • by Burkin (1534829) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @08:55AM (#27686599)

    This leads us to the only part of the GPL that I think is in any way legally questionable (IANAL). I'm not sure it is entirely legally clear if the copyright holder is allowed to revoke the GPL licensing terms or not, no matter what is said in the license.

    No, they can't. The FSF has already stated that if the public has had the right to use the program under the GPL that it can't be revoked.

    Can the developer of a program who distributed it under the GPL later license it to another party for exclusive use?
    No, because the public already has the right to use the program under the GPL, and this right cannot be withdrawn.

    http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/gpl-faq.html#CanDeveloperThirdParty [fsf.org]

  • Re:It depends (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitalunity (19107) <digitalunityNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday April 23, 2009 @08:56AM (#27686643) Homepage

    Well, even if the maintainers have the copyrights, that only means future versions can be closed source. They can't terminate the already-outstanding licenses without a breach of terms. They also own the trademarks to the MySQL also.

    IMO, Sun lost the hearts and minds of the developers which is where the real value was. The trademarks and copyrights are worthless if the community views MySQL's direction is wrong and moves entirely to a fork.

  • by Khan (19367) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @09:03AM (#27686729)

    ...to PostgreSQL. Seriously, I already use it for GpsDrive. Now I just need to convince the Cacti devs to switch over.

  • Re:It depends (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmai ... m minus language> on Thursday April 23, 2009 @09:12AM (#27686853) Homepage Journal

    They can't terminate the already-outstanding licenses without a breach of terms.

    On the flip side, the forking company can't use the same business model as MySQL AB. Since MySQL owned the copyrights, they could see non-GPLed versions of the software under terms that were more palatable to corporations. To a certain degree, it served their purposes to fuel GPL fears.

    Now that the forking company is 100% bound by the GPL, they must attempt to undo any misplaced fears about the GPL and seek to convince companies that what they really want is a support licene, additional tools, or trained consultants.

  • by Albanach (527650) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @09:14AM (#27686893) Homepage

    If the copyright holder is allowed to revoke the license, they could close up any project that they own copyright to without allowing any forks. It would mean a loss of MySQL and OpenOffice.org as free software forever.

    This is taken care of by section 6 of the GPL v2 (though it appears as section 7 in the MySQL documentation for version 5.0 at least.

    • Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein. You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties to this License.

    If I give you a copy of MySQL that I download today, you automatically get a license to modify and distribute from the copyright holder. Any copies you distribute will likewise have a perpetual license as long as you and the recipient obey the requirements of the GPL V2.

    That's not something Sun or Oracle can take away from you. They can stop releasing new versions under the GPL as they own the code (anyone submitting patches must agree to the Sun Contributer Agreement [mysql.com]). They cannot, however, unGPL the code that has already been released.

  • by anss123 (985305) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @09:17AM (#27686943)

    No one. Or, perhaps, everyone. That's kind of the point, isn't it? It isn't locked into anyone's individual grip.

    In case of mysql I think they made a living on selling versions without the gpl license. That business model will not work for a gpl fork.

  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @09:17AM (#27686945) Homepage

    If we look at MySQL for example: here's a company that produces half way decent database engine that that make open source. They play the open source game "properly" producing code that a mortal can compile to get a working database. While the company is giving the community what they want everything is hunky dory and there is peace.

    Enter Sun who buy MySQL and suddenly the community isn't happy and it's fork fork fork.

    Congratulations! With your very example you actually managed to disprove your original assertion. See, your original claim was this:

    "As the owner of a software development company I think your would have to be stark raving nuts to open source your main product."

    But, the very first paragraph in that quoted text demonstrates that isn't actually the case. The community was very happy with and supportive of MySQL corporate.

    The problem, as you pointed out, was the purchase by Sun. In that case, the customers didn't feel Sun would necessarily have their interests at heart, and so there was dissatisfaction. This is only increased by the fact that Sun has now been purchased by Oracle, a company that actually markets a product in the same general space (I would argue they aren't actually in the same market, and so MySQL has little to fear, but... people aren't exactly rational).

    So the key to running a company on an open codebase seems simple: keep your customers happy, and don't give them the impression that their interested are being threatened. But, of course, that's a good general rule to follow regardless of the license your code falls under. The only real difference between open and closed source, in this case, is that if the source is closed, you may have achieved vendor lock-in, which gives you more freedom to buttfuck your customers, as they won't have a clear avenue for recourse... but if that's your strategy, well, frankly, fuck you.

  • Secret to Success (Score:2, Insightful)

    by steltho (1121605) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @09:23AM (#27687017)
    1. Create a company around a popular open source database.
    2. Sell company for $1 billion.
    3. Profit
    4. Fork it
    5. ???
    6. Profit again
  • Re:It depends (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @09:23AM (#27687031) Homepage

    Most companies don't need a more "palatable" license for an RDBMS. They typically
    use it as a product, not something to build a product from. This is the key area
    where the GPL can be a problem for a corporate entity. Most of Oracle's database
    (or apps) customers don't have any reason to be concerned about their RDBMS having
    a copyleft license.

    They want assurance that their data will be protected and their operations won't suffer outtages.

  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @09:24AM (#27687045) Homepage

    Who said anything about closing the gap? Continuing to develop and support MySQL doesn't mean turning it into a powerhouse database like Oracle.

    The simple fact is, MySQL and Oracle do not, and have never, played in the same league, and I believe it would be a mistake to try and turn MySQL into a shitty Oracle. MySQL has a niche... keep it there.

  • Re:It depends (Score:5, Insightful)

    by paulthomas (685756) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @09:24AM (#27687053) Journal

    Agreed. See x.org for how quickly a community can switch to a fork.

  • by GauteL (29207) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @09:46AM (#27687339)

    You're not really answering my post. The GPL is clear enough on this matter, but it isn't entirely legally clear if the GPL is to be considered a binding contract or not. Thus, my argument can't really be answered by referring to the GPL. The FSF has their opinion on the matter, but the FSF does not make laws.

    This is not a problem at all in the opposite case where a recipient of the code breaks the license, because without the license, the recipient has no rights to the code.

    However, without the license, the copyright holder has all the rights exclusively to the code.

    I'm not saying there is a big chance of the copyright holder being legally able to revoke the licensing on GPL software, but I do think it is worth considering as a remote possibility. In any case I don't think it is a good idea to agree to reassign copyright on your contributions to SUN/Oracle.

  • Re:It depends (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @09:49AM (#27687415) Journal
    What do you think most companies do with an RDBMS if they are not building software on top of it? Most either build in-house software on top of it, or license third-party software to run on top of it. In both of these situations the license is important. There's a reason MySQL AB made so much money selling licenses that let people avoid the GPL.
  • Re:Right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rackserverdeals (1503561) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @09:51AM (#27687447) Homepage Journal

    Yeah right, if postgres was popular you'd be pimping mysql, just to be a trouble maker. In any case postgres is dangerously small and uns

    Awww.. Look he tried to make a funny. See.. he was going to write unstable, but he stopped in the middle because his postgresql backed keyboard locked up.

    What a darling to try and be clever.

    People like Postgresql not because it's not popular like mysql. People like it because it's not crippled like mysql.

    My experience, in general, has been that people moving from big commercial databases like postgresql. Those that that are new to rdbms's like mysql.

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @09:53AM (#27687467) Homepage

    The problem is they hang like a knife (or maybe that should be fork) over the company and if they are unfortunate enough to annoy the community they could eaisly lose control of their product.

    And that is one of the major reasons why professional software engineers love commercial Open Source software. The company is on no uncertain terms with the customer: Keep us happy and we keep giving you money for support contracts. Turn into a dick and we walk. It is a vastly healthier relationship for mission critical business information systems.

    Before I go on, let me note that what I am about to say does not consider redistribution, which is its own thorny problem and is intrinsically linked to copyright.

    On the matter of continued use and improvement, a critical matter to information systems, the fiat monopoly of copyright is extremely dangerous to the customer. If a commercial proprietary software vendor changes the terms of the bargain, the options are to use the existing software as it is, to migrate your information infrastructure, or to accept the new terms. The first, using the software as it stands, is usually impractical in this rapidly evolving industry. The second, migration, can be enormously expensive. The final option, paying the Dane Gelt, is often the least objectionable option at the time.

    And so it is that while redistribution is an issue which copyright may handle well, continued use and improvement falls heavily in favor of Open Source or non-copyright. Because continued use and improvement is so critical to mission critical information systems, it is in our industry that the onus of copyright has become most visible, and in our industry that Open Source first became a significant market option.

  • Re:It depends (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vux984 (928602) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:52AM (#27688429)

    if you know the protocol, you can interface with oracle, mySQL, sybase, whatever without touching oracle's code, which means oracle's license is irrelevant if all you want is to build a client app.

    Until you want to sell the client app.

  • Re:It depends (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rackserverdeals (1503561) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:58AM (#27689729) Homepage Journal

    Or even better yet. Don't use MySQL.

  • by giuffsalvo (1536695) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @12:06PM (#27689881)
    Seriously, given that Sun is still the biggest commercial contributor to OSS, and given the fact that I highly doubt Oracle will continue to feed money into many open-source project sponsored by Sun (like Netbeans, MySQL, ecc..), since this would 1 - Hurt them (MySQL) or 2 - Make them waste money into products not for their target markets I think that this merge is a tragedy for many open source projects, which will see a slowdown, or complete death. Not to mention the fact that the world is loosing one of the most open-minded, trasparent, and less "bastard" companies ever existed... Is there any chance that a like-minded company like Google, despite working in a completely different market (they provide services, Sun/Oracle provide the infrastructure), might try to save Sun and its legacy, for "historical" reasons? Or maybe take the financial burden of sponsoring Netbeans, MySQL, ecc...?
  • by domatic (1128127) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @12:38PM (#27690523)

    Enter Sun who buy MySQL and suddenly the community isn't happy and it's fork fork fork. Only one of those forks needs to be any good and all of a sudden Suns not bought very much at all. If a company plays nice with the open source community forks are fairly easy but rare. The problem is they hang like a knife (or maybe that should be fork) over the company and if they are unfortunate enough to annoy the community they could eaisly lose control of their product.

    From the point of view of a user, that isn't a bad thing. It is an assurance of good behavior. If you know something you are going to do will seriously annoy your customers then you should think three times at least about it. And it wasn't just that Sun bought MySQL and it was "fork, fork, fork". It was Sun bought MySQL and the core devs jumped ship. If the code was all that important than there should have been concern for those devs as they are the ones who know it best. And many projects that have "forked" have in reality had the core devs pushed out for one reason or another and the community simply follows the devs.

    It seems to me that you want to relegate goodwill and trust to low or no importance. For users of FOSS code, it is almost everything.

  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @12:54PM (#27690891) Homepage

    You miss the point -- most small software companies are hoping to be purchased at some point so the owners can cash out and retire. This clearly shows that a company with an open source product is a risky purchase, which means you won't get as much money for it.

    Agreed, there is an increased risk, there. But that just means the purchasing company needs to be careful to reassure the community that they are going to continue to support and develop the product.

    I mean, most people don't *want* to fork. They'll only do it if they feel they're backed up against a wall. So as long as the purchasing company is reasonable, I really don't think the risk is that great.

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