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Re: [GENERAL] Re: [HACKERS] proposed improvements to PostgreSQL license

From: Mike Mascari <mascarm(at)mascari(dot)com>
To: Tom Lane <tgl(at)sss(dot)pgh(dot)pa(dot)us>
Cc: Thomas Lockhart <lockhart(at)alumni(dot)caltech(dot)edu>, chris(at)bitmead(dot)com, pgsql-general(at)postgresql(dot)org, PostgreSQL Hackers <pgsql-hackers(at)postgresql(dot)org>, PostgreSQL Announce <pgsql-announce(at)postgresql(dot)org>
Subject: Re: [GENERAL] Re: [HACKERS] proposed improvements to PostgreSQL license
Date: 2000-07-04 08:06:29
Message-ID: 39619B05.BE571E38@mascari.com (view raw or flat)
Thread:
Lists: pgsql-announcepgsql-generalpgsql-hackers
Tom Lane wrote:
> 
> Thomas Lockhart <lockhart(at)alumni(dot)caltech(dot)edu> writes:
> > Postgres is starting to become a visible thing, and is going to be used
> > by people who don't know much about the free software movement. And
> > *I'm* within reach of the American court system, and *you* can
> > contribute code which could make me a target for a lawsuit.
> 
> A further comment here: BSD and similar licenses have indeed been used
> successfully for a couple of decades --- within a community of like-
> minded hackers who wouldn't dream of suing each other in the first
> place.  Postgres is starting to get out into a colder and harder world.
> To name just one unpleasant scenario: if PG continues to be as
> successful as it has been, sooner or later Oracle will decide that we
> are a threat to their continued world domination.  Oracle have a
> longstanding reputation for playing dirty pool when they feel it
> necessary.  

Does hiring private detectives to rifle through allies of
Microsoft's trash count as dirty pool? ;-) I personally feel that
analogies between PostgreSQL/Oracle and Linux/Windows NT are
becoming more realistic. You'll know PostgreSQL has reached Prime
Time when a CNBC reporter asks Larry Ellison about it the same
way they ask Bill Gates about Linux (sorry Marc).

> It'd be awfully convenient for them if they could eliminate
> the threat of Postgres with a couple of well-placed lawsuits hinging on
> the weaknesses of the existing PG license.  It'd hardly even cost them
> anything, if they can sue individual developers who have no funds for
> a major court case.
> 
> Chris and Peter may not feel that they need to worry about the
> sillinesses of the American legal system, but those of us who are
> within its reach do need to worry about it.

From a user's perspective, the only concern that I have is that
it remains BSD-ish instead of GPL-ish. Commercial products built
around database solutions often wander too vaguely into "GPL vs.
LGPL" land to be safe, depending upon how "wired" they are in the
product. For example, if PostgreSQL were GPL and libpq were LGPL,
and I wanted to sell a product which required SPI or new types,
would I have to release such source? With pure BSD the ambiguity
is gone. The "intentions" mentioned in the proposal seemed GPLish
even though the agreement seemed BSDish. 

> 
> I'm not opining here about the merits or weaknesses of Great Bridge's
> proposal.  (What I'd really like is to see some review from other
> legal experts --- surely there are some people on these mailing lists
> who can bring in their corporate legal departments to comment?)  But
> what we have here is a well-qualified lawyer telling us that we've got
> some problems in the existing license.  IMHO we'd be damned fools to
> ignore his advice completely.  Sticking your head in the sand is not
> a good defense mechanism.

My distaste for the profession grows with every day (just try and
wade through corporate tax law). Its a pretty sorry state we're
(Americans) in when guys who want to give out software *free*
have to worry about the legal consequences...But, for what its
worth, I agree with your conclusions :-(

Mike Mascari

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