Recently, Real Software posted a blog post that said that Real Basic works with MySQL, but that you'd have to open source any Real Basic app that used it.

Real Studio is able to connect to the Community (free) edition of MySQL, but this edition usually requires you to open source software that connects to it (due to its GPL license). 

I didn't think that was right.  Obviously, you can use MySQL without open sourcing code the same way you can write an app with GNU/Linux and release it closed source.  If MySQL was that "viral", almost every two bit app on some cheap php hosting environment is now GPL'd.

Turns out it's more complicated, apparently.  It might be that the Real Software plugin that talks to MySQL is GPL'd.  I don't know how that'd happen. Can't Real just get a MySQL commercial license and start coding? 

Regardless, the post got me thinking about MySQL licensing.  And that, though I'm over two years late to the party, seems to be a lot of fun.

Groklaw - Monty Program AB's Suggestion to EU Commission to Get Rid of the GPL on MySQL - Updated:

So that is why they care. They have big plans for a business around MySQL, and they want to make some money from it. MariaDB is their fork of MySQL. Of course, there's nothing wrong with making money. Notice the role of the Open Database Alliance in all this, in case anyone tells you there is no connection. There is.

I'm not sure I understand how the sort of dual-licensing many open source but commercially funded apps work.  There's no way that MySQL-Cash isn't somehow benefitting from impressive changes and fixes to MySQL-Altruism.  (My guess is that they pretend to have a "clean room", have someone walk in, view the OSS MySQL code, then walk out, across the hall, and do the same thing from memory to the closed version.)

But companies do this, pretending that the open source version is completely and irrevocably downstream of the closed source version, and one of the MySQL co-founders apparently wanted to have his cake and eat it twice. He wanted to relicense MySQL under the Apache license so, essentially, he could do whatever the heck he wanted to do with the closed MySQL codebase at his new company without releasing that code rather than have to open source his fork of MySQL. That is, unless he bought a license to develop MySQL from the closed source, his only avenue to fork was to fork the GPL version. Oh noes! Which, of course, suggests that there's a fair bit of code in MySQL-Cash that we're not seeing in MySQL-Altruism.

Apparently that threw the world on its ear. IBM said that Oracle could buy Sun (and, with it, MySQL), but some little schmoe (above) disagreed. The sale was held up, and millions of bucks allegedly lost during the deliberation. Fine.

The worst part? Some wicked pixelers started saying stuff like this:

And in the ultimate irony, Richard Stallman himself joined the fray against... Richard Stallman?


No, no he didn't. But that didn't stop the world from deciding that the GPL prevented you from forking code. WTF? RLY? Come on. Get a new job writing about whatever it is that you're really interested in, because it sure ain't the GPL.

Here's a quote from a horribly written piece on CNet called "Stallman: GPL doesn't guarantee software freedom".

Even Richard Stallman, co-author of the GPL and founder of the free-software movement, and not someone that spends much time worrying about monetization of open-source software, gets this.

As noted in a letter co-drafted with Open Rights Group and Knowledge Ecology International, Stallman notes that Oracle's proposed acquisition of MySQL could hurt its development because the GPL reduces incentives to commercialize the code.

Come on, that wasn't enough for you to wonder what was going on? You really thought RMS was arguing for Apache over GPL? To what ends? (Sorry -- I don't usually bash like this, but the FUD here is insane, and so easily seen through.)

A commenter on this story has a much better answer/handle on this situation. It's so good, I'm posting it all, in case the story disappears. "mbenedict" is the author.

There are many issues here getting mixed up.

First, in fairness to Stallman, when he talks about a "lack of a more flexible license" for MySQL he's really talking about GPL v3 -- or more specifically mixing v2 and v3 code together in a possible future fork. Matt's selective quoting above seem to misrepresent Stallman's position by removing its context.

Second, even under GPL v2, there is *nothing* preventing a "MySQL 2" to "arise, take the code, hire all of the developers, and development of the open-source database would not miss a beat." A new entity under GPL *can* fork MySQL code and do all that. What the new entity *cannot* do is re-license the forked code under a different license -- including GPL v3, or a separate Commercial License under a dual-licensing scheme.

So we finally get into the crux of the issue which Matt curiously omits: dual-licensing of GPL v2 code. We all knew it was "evil". Now we're all acting surprised that it could be "evil". Dual-licensing allows companies to give out crack to babies, and then charge them $$$ once they're hooked... completely against the spirit of GPL.

Now, I'm not a fan of GPL. I've been a long proponent for BSD-style licenses (which Apache derives from). Lots of companies "talk" about relicensing from GPL to Apache... but actions speak louder than words.

Okay, okay, okay. Let's stop mbenedict at one spot -- BSD? Insane. "Please steal my code! Make hats of cash! Give me nothing! Just know that you can't sue me." Or, as I've said before, those licenses "essentially enable legalized plagiarism". That's crazy. Well meaning, perhaps (more likely too business oriented and not written by a guy who actually contributes to open source code), but crazy.

There's a perfect license for releasing code into the world for commercial companies to use: The LGPL. It's fair. It encourages passive collaboration (OSS' biggest boon) from commercial enterprises (a rare but powerful thing). And, get this, it fairly requires that if they improve the functions you gave them, they must give back to you those -- and only those -- improvements. Brilliant! That's what The GNG Manifesto is all about.

I think you get the point. RMS is anti-GPLv2 insofar as it's not the GPLv3. He likes GPLv3, but thinks it should have more flexibility for users to change their project's license as changes to the GPL are made. He does not like Apache licenses more than GNU licenses. MySQL should, for RMS, be licensed under GPLv3, though v2 and v3 allow you to fork.

What a media fail.

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