Software Groups Oppose Oracle Ownership Of MySQL


A number of organizations supporting Open Source have sent an open letter to the Commissioner for Competition of the European Commission asking that Oracle not be permitted to acquire the MySQL database, and are being supported by a similar request from MySQL creator Michael 'Monty' Widenius.

The Open Rights Group, Knowledge Ecology International, and U.S. software freedom activist Richard Stallman on Tuesday released an open letter to the European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes to oppose the acquisition of MySQL by Oracle, which would come about with Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

Sun acquired the MySQL open source database technology early last year in a move that was originally praised by the open source community because of Sun's support for that community.

However, Oracle in April said it plans to acquire Sun in a $7.4 billion deal announced shortly after an earlier bid by IBM to acquire Sun fell through. That would give Oracle control of one of only three major competitors to its own database software, and the only major database software developers that focus on the open source model.

The U.S. Department of Justice cleared Oracle's Sun acquisition in August, but anticompetitive concerns in the European Union have held up the close of the deal.

In the letter, which can be read by clicking here, the authors said that, if Oracle is allowed to acquire MySQL, it will limit the development of the functionality and performance of MySQL, "leading to profound harm to those who use MySQL software to power applications."

Oracle is the leading developer of database software, and in the enterprise space has market dominance and "charges very high prices and earns hefty profits," the letter's authors wrote. In other markets, Oracle has more competition from applications like Microsoft's SQL Server, Sybase and IBM's DB2, according to the letter.

MySQL, which is available either as a free download or for a fee with support, is "creating substantial competitive pressure on prices for proprietary databases, leading to moderation or lowering of licensing fees from Oracle and Microsoft, as well as defection of many enterprise database services to a MySQL platform," according to the letter.

The authors also wrote that Oracle tried to buy MySQL in 2006, "but the management rejected Oracle's offer, in part because Oracle would not disclose its plan for MySQL, and some members of the MySQL management team were concerned that Oracle was only acquiring MySQL to curb its advances in the marketplace."

The authors also argued that anyone who thinks the acquisition of MySQL would not impact the technology because of the availability of a free version under the GNU GPL 2.0 license is wrong.

Instead, they wrote, Oracle, as the original rights-holder to MySQL, would face a conflict-of-interest in terms of whether to price the commercial licenses for MySQL on a reasonable basis and how much resources to provide to develop what they called "a powerful, feature-rich free alternative to [Oracle's] core product."

Furthermore, the authors wrote, Oracle's acquisition of MySQL could alienate and disperse MySQL's core developers and make it difficult to continue the evolution of MySQL as the open source community moves toward adopting version 3.0 of the GNU GPL license.

Finally, the authors wrote they recognize that it might be essential for Sun's survival for that company to be acquired by Oracle.

However, they wrote, "Oracle should not be allowed to harm consumer interests in the database market by weakening the competition provided by MySQL."

The Open Rights Group is a U.K.-based organization focused on defending freedom of expression, privacy, innovation, consumer rights and creativity on the Internet.

Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) is a Washington, D.C.-based not-for-profit nongovernmental organization focused on social justice and making knowledge resources available in ways that it says are "more efficient, more fair and responsive to human needs."

Richard Stallman is an American software freedom activist who in 1983 launched the GNU Project to create a free operating system and who has since lobbied to make software available for free.

Meanwhile, Widenius on Monday wrote in a blog that Oracle should settle antitrust concerns over its imminent control of MySQL by committing to sell it to a suitable third party.

Widenius wrote that MySQL needs a different home than Oracle in order to prevent conflicts of interest.

Such a move would also benefit Oracle by eliminating what seems to be the final barrier to its acquisition of Sun, Widenius wrote.

More on Widenius' blog can be read by clicking here.

Oracle declined to comment on the letter and blog.