Monday, 30 January 2006

The Truth behind European of the Year?

Norbert Bollow, the man who already made himself a name in the campaign against software patents by founding, now runs a new website where he questions whether the 'European of the Year' award really [was] decided by the votes in the public poll, as it should have according to the predefined rules set by European Voice itself.

Banana Republic runs a good summary in German of what it's all about. My own thinking, also quoted in that article, is that I have a hard time understanding how anybody -- including the declared winner Jean-Claude Juncker -- would have been able to gather more votes over Internet than Florian Müller did. I'm not questioning Jean-Claude Juncker's merits as European of the Year, but I'd be very surprised if he were the legitimate winner of the ballot.

So if you aren't particularly fond of Banana Republic like political intransparency winning grounds in Europe (regardless if you're an EU citizen or not), why not sign a bundle of open letters on the web site (at the bottom of the page)!

Thursday, 26 January 2006

On licensing

The GPLv3 draft suggests some new dimensions and options for developers of GPL software. At MySQL, we believe in Free Software and in Open Source. We believe in ubiquity.

So to be very clear:
We do not intend to make any changes that would harm the community.

What we do want, is input from the MySQL community on licensing. GPLv3 is not yet written in stone, and as co-chair of the Discussion Committee B at FSF, I am depending on your feedback. Feel free to ask questions, raise concerns, come with suggestions!

Monday, 23 January 2006

Lobbyists prepare for next software patent battle

In an article in ZDNet UK, Florian Müller describes the new debate on SWPATs, which will soon start in the EU.

This time the debate around software patents in Europe is going to be 'bigger and more complex' according to an anti-patent campaigner.

Pro-patent companies and lobby groups are getting ready for the European Commission's next attempt to change the law around patents.

Last year, the directive on the patentability of computer implemented inventions, commonly known as the software patent directive, was rejected by the European Parliament.

But the debate around software patents has now reopened, with the EC's launch of a public consultation into how the patent system should be changed. Although this consultation does not mention software patents directly, there are fears that the Community Patent legislation could ratify the European Patent Office's current practice of granting software patents.


Florian Mueller, the founder of and a key campaigner against last year's directive, said the next battle over software patents could be more difficult to fight than the last.

"The new patent fight is going to be bigger and more complex because the Commission appears to be looking at the introduction of a community patent, the harmonisation of substantive law, that is, what can and cannot be patented, a streamlining of the judicial system and possibly also some patent quality initiatives," he said.

Although Mueller stopped campaigning full-time against software patents early last year to concentrate on other projects, he said that he may consider returning.

"I can imagine becoming involved again if medium-sized IT companies are prepared to provide a much more significant war chest this time around. We'll definitely need more resources than the last time," he said.

In addition to what is mentioned in the article there are a couple of interesting dates:

  • Until 31 March 2006, the Commission accepts submissions of responses to the Consultation Paper. But answering this paper is challenging, and requires a lot of effort.

  • On 13 June 2006, there will be a hearing in Brussels.

Pundits expect that already after the summer break, the Commission will present a suggestion for SWPAT legislation or presumably even a package of several suggestions.

Wednesday, 18 January 2006

Finnish FOSS survey on contributions to MySQL

Niklas Vainio, researcher at the Hypermedia Laboratory of the University of Tampere in my native Finland, is doing a survey on free/open source software (FOSS) communities. He would like MySQL contributors, including developers, bug fixers, documentation writers, testers, packagers and coordinators, paid or not, to participate in the survey at

The survey has six pages and a total of 63 questions. It brings up a lot of interesting questions.

Niklas hopes the survey will increase our joint understanding of the structure of FOSS communities and company participation in FOSS. The research is part of the project Managing Open Source Software as an Integrated Part of Business ( The results of the survey will be available publicly later this year.

Besides answering the survey, you may wish to contact the researcher himself at with any questions or comments. His blog is at

Tuesday, 17 January 2006

GPLv3 first draft launched @ MIT

I think the FSF has done a great job in preparing the first draft for GPLv3. "The FSF" here means Richard Stallman plus Eben Mogler, their lawyer.

The GPLv3 first draft was launched today 16 Jan 2006 here at MIT in Boston. It's the start of a nearly year-long process with at least one more coordinated draft (in late June) published before a final release, likely in November. Those are the likely dates; earlier and later dates are possible at least in theory.

Generally speaking, GPLv3 tries to address all important GPLv2 shortcomings. Judging from what I've seen and examined so far, it does quite a good job of it. Let's see where the discussions go.

Discussions now take place fully openly over the FSF GPLv3 website with those who represent special interest groups being invited by the FSF to four Discussion Groups.

  • Group A is major projects (e.g. Perl, Apache, Debian)

  • Group B is Big Business creating or embedding GPL software (e.g. IBM, Sun, HP, but also Trolltech, Red Hat, MySQL)

  • Group C is big users (e.g. government, enterprises)

  • Group D is individual hackers, other "leftovers" not fitting into other groups

Together with the Senior Counsel IP of Hewlett Packard, I got elected co-chair of Group B.

The draft and its rationale can be found at and respectively.

GPLv3 attempts at solving several issues:

1. making it compatible with non-US law

  • using "propagation" instead of "distribution"

  • detaching language from US-specific statutory law

  • perhaps introducing official non-English translations

2. making it more compatible with other FOSS licenses

  • doing large parts of what the MySQL "FOSS Exception" does today

3. create options where none exist today

  • allow requiring GPLv3 users to make their server-side SW downloadable

  • enable patent retaliation against offensive patent holders

4. clarify the intention of preserving freedom in current gray areas

  • disable GPL SW use with Digital Rights/Restrictions Management

There is going to be some controversy in the GPLv3, but most of the work will be plenty of eye-balls attempting to find bugs in the wording of mostly non-controversial issues. As the patent retaliation and server-side download clauses are optional, they are not nearly as hot as the DRM incompatibility.

For most (practically all) GPL software, the license is written in such a way that the upgrade from GPLv2 to GPLv3 will happen automatically, without any actions needed (or even possible) by the developers. There is an auto-upgrade clause in GPLv2.

We do have to understand that there is a long process ahead of GPLv3 until it becomes reality. But the atmosphere of the day was a good one, with the attendees showing proper respect for RMS and Eben, for the process and for each other. The task at hand is not a power play but one of discovering and documenting argumentation, flaws, and logic towards FSF, who as benevolent dictator will decide what GPLv3 will be.

I'm looking forward to contributing to the GPLv3 process!

Monday, 16 January 2006

New SCO announcement

Today, SCO announces MySQL Network for SCO OpenServer 6 at the National Retail Federation event in New York. The announcement is also on the MySQL Partner Site.

The news of this announcement, beyond the September 2005 SCO partnership press release, is that the porting to OpenServer 6 has now been completed, and thus SCO will begin reselling MySQL Network through their partner channel to their customers as planned in Sep 2005.

We got some questions on the nature of the deal between MySQL AB and SCO back then, and I might as well answer some PAQ ("Presumably Asked Questions") in advance.

  • Although SCO will be offering our commercial MySQL Network subscriptions to their customers, the deal also has allowed us to offer a community edition of MySQL 5.0 for OpenServer -- available now under the GPL at

  • From a community perspective, I am thus happy to use the money we receive from SCO to expand the universe of GPL software.

  • FOSS is about choice. By porting MySQL to OpenServer, we are offering more users access to more open source software.
  • SCO's platforms are quite widely used in retail and other SMB industries so we are helping fulfil our mission to make database management affordable and available to more people.