Oracle Says EU Doesn't Get Open Source - InformationWeek

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11/11/2009
10:52 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Oracle Says EU Doesn't Get Open Source

What is it that the EU doesn't understand about how open source works? That seems to be a good part of the substance of Oracle's objections to, well, the EU's objections to Oracle acquiring Sun. Never mind that many governments in the EU mandate the use of open source in their own work, and have a slightly better than passing acquaintance with it.

What is it that the EU doesn't understand about how open source works? That seems to be a good part of the substance of Oracle's objections to, well, the EU's objections to Oracle acquiring Sun. Never mind that many governments in the EU mandate the use of open source in their own work, and have a slightly better than passing acquaintance with it.

Oracle's words should be familiar:

The Commission's Statement of Objections reveals a profound misunderstanding of both database competition and open source dynamics. It is well understood by those knowledgeable about open source software that because MySQL is open source, it cannot be controlled by anyone. That is the whole point of open source.

To this MySQL founder Michael "Monty" Widenius added his own prescient observation, as quoted in The Inquirer:

Those who claim that MySQL's open source nature all by itself ensures competition ignore the fact that open source is just a distribution vehicle while MySQL depends on a company using the related intellectual property rights to generate revenues and fund further development.

It's an echo of something I've said myself as well: MySQL, the software, isn't what Sun (and now Oracle) bought. It was the development team, the people who made the software what it is and could conceivably continue to make it something better.

Without a copy of the EU's statement on hand (I searched in vain for the text of the objection) it's a little difficult to figure out if the EU's objections stem from an advanced understanding of open source. EU or not, there's nothing to guarantee it isn't simply the latter, since there are plenty of people within the open source world itself who don't seem to get that good programmers are far more valuable than any amount of code.

What's more irksome than the prospect of the EU not "getting" open source is the prospect that Oracle doesn't get it. Oracle's statements as to the future of the various open source projects under the combined Oracle/Sun banner were vague enough. If the company sees open source as little more than a vehicle for gaining legitimacy with groups that formerly had no use for it, it's missing the point.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on Sun's future under Oracle. Download the report here (registration required).

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