Last week Eben Moglen, founder and executive director of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), submitted an independent opinion on the Oracle/Sun merger to the European Union (EU). Moglen summarized his submission as follows:
The GPL was designed specifically to ensure the permanent freedom of software, and the ability of everyone to improve and share their improvements to the program, no matter who acquires the copyrights to the code. The whole point of GPL as a copyright license is to deal with every contingency that could result in hobbling or destroying the freedom of code shared under it. The drafters of GPL versions 2 and 3 considered scenarios very similar to the ones that the Commission is concerned about now. The design of the license, and the experience we have had using it, show that it can be counted upon to operate as intended in situations like this one.
[ MySQL co-founder and creator Michael "Monty" Widenius has said Oracle should sell the database. | Stay up to speed with the open source community with InfoWorld's Technology: Open Source newsletter. ]
Moglen issued the 11-page opinion, pro bono and without the charge, at the request of Oracle's counsel. Moglen clarified that Oracle is an ongoing contributor to the SFLC, while Monty Widenius has contributed in the past. However, neither the contributions from Oracle nor Widenius have exceeded 5 percent of SFLC's funding since inception.
I found the following paragraph from Moglen's submission particularly interesting:
MySQL is now and always has been an atypical GPL software project, because its copyright was highly centralized inside a small commercial firm that considered dual licensing its only commercially attractive strategy for survival. But even MySQL AB's atypical business model, which was highly unreflective of the mass of GPL'd software development, occurred within the parameters of the GPL's overall design, which is to ensure the freedom of the software it protects regardless of the commercial motivations or behaviors of the parties distributing the primary upstream version.
On the other end of the debate, Florian Mueller announced that he has submitted a 31-page rebuttal to Moglen's position. Mueller provided a summary of the highlights via e-mail, from which I selected these comments: