Oracle, Sun, MySQL and Monopoly

Monty Widenius has issued a manifesto asking that open sourcers and MySQL users to write to the EU to let them know their views on Oracle’s potential ownership of the MySQL copyright. He of course hopes we will argue that they shouldn’t.

His arguments are no longer, and have never really been about open source, its about making money. He has a right to try and monetise the MySQL code base; its open source, and as such has a right to represent his views to his elected politicians. He has no right to elevate his personal economic interests into a public interest argument.

  • I want the EU to rapidly come to a conclusion about whether Oracle acquiring Sun is anti-competitive.
  • I want the EU to come to a decision that maximises the long term competitive position of open source vs. proprietary software distribution strategies i.e. prefers the building of software not the trading of rights.
  • I want the EU to act in the interests of all 400 million citizens of the EU, not the narrow economic interests of a few millionaires

I am deeply un-convinced that placing conditions on the acquisition gives me what I want.

Oracle is a broad portfolio software house. Sun is a systems hardware manufacturer albeit with a broad software portfolio. SQL databases will be only a small part of the new entity, and one which I argue in my blog article , Oracle & Sun & the European Single Market is not only competitive in itself, but also being out innovated in a number of market developments. It is clear from the debate, that everyone recognises the code is free, so the argument is now about the copyright.

Having just stopped working for Sun for after 12 years where I helped re-introduce Sun’s open source strategies to its customers, I have come up against the intellect draining,  near-religious fervour of the  fans of the GPL and until I heard Eben Moglen speak on YouTube; he delivered a speech called  “Free & Open Software: Paradigm for New Intellectual Commons”,

I hadn’t got it. A number of  people have been arguing for a while that the GPL is not a community building licence and that if community is the key then one should look at ‘free-er’ licences, but the purpose of the GPL is to keep the code free; it prohibits commercial appropriation. This is an important and worthwhile goal. While some people seem to be moving away from supporting the GPL, I think I may be moving towards it.

It is my conclusion that the MySQL copyright is not important enough in the IT market for Oracle’s ownership to be anti-competitive; the code’s out there, and if you want an SQL based business, fork what’s there, or start again; and if that’s too hard, tough shit.

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