[freetds] TDS versions

James K. Lowden jklowden at freetds.org
Thu May 29 02:13:30 EDT 2008


Dossy Shiobara wrote:
> However, multi-licensing of works is not uncommon.  Vendors such as
> MySQL offer code under GPL or commercial license.

It would take some doing to change the FreeTDS license, supposing there
were need or desire.  As a strictly legal matter, perhaps, there are just
a few copyright holders.  But there were many contributors, and I for one
wouldn't agree to any change absent a strong effort to reach all of them
and get their consent.  

> > >This is quite pleasant, IMHO: commercial projects need to license,
> > >open source doesn't need to explicitly license.  
> > 
> > That may be your opinion, but unless I'm mistaken that's completely
> > incompatible with the LGPL.  [...]
> 
> If this is indeed the case, then this is yet another strong argument
> against using the GPL/LGPL.  (I personally prefer the MIT/BSD license.)

Let's be clear: MPCC has nothing to do with any license.  If FreeTDS were
in the public domain, the issue would be the same.  Why?  Because, as RMS
and Eben Moglen carefully taught us, copyright is not patent.  Licenses
are about copyright, and MPCC is about patents.  

Patents cover an idea, not an implementation.  No implementation is free
of patent claims, no matter how licensed, unless it does not embody the
idea(s) claimed by the patent.  

Patent 7,318,075 claims, among other things, MARS.  MPCC says you can
license MARS from Microsoft for a price.  Full stop.  

The except is The Pledge, and that's were the development and distribution
methodology, more than the license per se, comes in.  

The Pledge says Microsoft won't assert claims against "you as an open
source software developer ... for making, using, importing, or
distributing any implementation" as long as the "software development
project has in all other respects the characteristics of an open source
project".  

The patent does therefore reduce the commercial viability of products that
implement TDS, whether or not they use FreeTDS.  It forces them to go the
MPCC route, or not to offer certain functionality.    

Observe: this is quite shrewd.  Microsoft promises not to sue me as a
personal person working on a project on the Internet.  There wasn't much
money in that anyway, and they get the "good" publicity.  ("The only thing
worse than being talked about is not being talked about.")  Meanwhile, if
perchance someone *is* trying to compete, they have to talk to daddy.  

I still doubt the financial efficacy of the TDS patent in particular, but
the Pledge will go a long way to quelling a potential PR nightmare that
had no financial upside.  

--jkl



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