Oracle to purchase Sun Microsystems?

Kyle Waters unum at
Mon May 18 10:54:06 MDT 2009

Kenneth Burgener wrote:
> Oh, I thought it was a dual license that didn't include GPL.  So if 
> worse comes to worse, MySQL can be forked, away from Oracle, under GPL 
> abilities?
> Kenneth

    Maybe an explanation of licensing is in order here.  It's a very 
confusing topic.  The original purpose of copyright is exactly as it 
seems it should be a set of laws used to determine who has a right to 
make copies of something.  Now in today's digital age that's a lot more 
confusing because everything is a copy.  In order to play a song that is 
stored on my hard drive, a copy is loaded into RAM, and then copied to 
various levels of cache, and then to the cpu, this process makes a lot 
of "copies".  A simpler example is that when I install software to my 
hard drive, I'm making a copy.

    At some point software companies started explicitly granting 
specific rights when someone "bought" a copy of their software.  
Sometimes they were expanding rights beyond what was normally had(you 
can make copies to install, use and backup the product) and sometimes 
the licensing took away rights(you can't use this product to make a web 
page that says bad things about us).  Some licenses say that the owners 
of the copyright can revoke your license for various reasons.  For 
example the GPL states (iirc) that if you try to deny the rights of 
others to distribute the software, than you lose(at least some of) your 
licensing rights.

  Unless a company has specifically granted itself rights to revoke your 
license at any time with out cause, than they can't revoke it with out 
reason.  So it doesn't matter who currently owns the copyright to a 
specific software application, if the previous owner has given you a 
license to use the software.  The new owner can not just revoke the 
license, unless the license says so.  So what ever license the current 
version of MySQL is under it will always been under.  Any one can take 
the code and maintain it under that license.

  Oracle has one special right that no one else has.  They can take the 
current code and use it how ever they want and redistribute under any 
license they want.  So they can add code improvements and sell it and 
not share those with any one else, and this would lead to the forking 
you are asking about.  This is assuming Oracle has the copyright to all 
of the MySQL code which they may not.  Certain Linux drivers are 
copyrighted by individuals other than Linus.

  One last thing that was mentioned by some one else.  There three 
"types" of intellectual property laws.  They are very distinct from each 
other.  If you are going to court over a copyright claim you do not get 
a patent lawyer.  They are separate issues.  The third type of 
intellectual property law is trademark.  You don't copyright the name of 
a product you trademark it.  So Linux is a trademark, MySQL is a 
trademark.  UNIX is a trademark.  I'm not sure if Oracle actually owns 
the MySQL trademark or not.  If they do.  They get to decide who uses 
that name, so you may be using the "MySQL" code but you'll have to call 
it something completely different.

  I don't have any idea what Oracle is going to do.  I'm just using this 
situation as an example to help explain some things that many people 
find confusing.


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