FAQ on MySQL vs. NuSphere Dispute


Uppsala, Sweden, 13 July 2001 - This is a summary of information that numerous people have asked us directly and on Slashdot and other discussion sites in the previous days. This summary does not contain ALL information relating to the present discussions and our relationship with NuSphere Corporation, but we have made every effort to include relevant items and present facts as facts. You are welcome with additional enquiries or comments to us at <opensource@mysql.com>.

Who created the MySQL[tm] software?

The MySQL[tm] server software was created by Michael "Monty" Widenius and his colleagues starting in 1994. The product was commercialised by TcX Datakonsult AB which later changed its name to MySQL AB. Monty is the CTO and a major owner of MySQL AB.

Does MySQL AB develop non-open source products?

No. All the software we develop is open source / free software. The core MySQL[tm] server is under GPL. Some other modules are under LGPL or some other open source licence. We do sell commercial licences of our own open source software, but that does not limit the availability of the same code under open source.

What is the view by MySQL AB on forks?

Forks are perfectly legal derivatives of GPL'd code as long as the GPL terms are followed. But please note that forking does not give the forker any rights to use the trademarks of others.

Does MySQL AB reject contributions to the code?

No. We accept contributions and are thankful for them (please see the MySQL Manual for more info). For contributions to the core database server, we ask for shared copyright in the same fashion as some other companies. Also the Free Software Foundation (FSF) uses transfer or shared copyright.

The code that goes in to the server is first scrutinised, and often revised, by our chief programmer Michael "Monty" Widenius, who himself has written most of the code. This is our way of making sure the design meets our standards and the product remains technically competitive. Handling copyright in this way also allows us to sell commercial licences to those who do not wish to be bound by the GPL licence terms, and when doing so, we can afford to hire more developers.

Does MySQL AB object to third-party websites and communities that focus on the MySQL[tm] server?

No! On the contrary, we encourage such sites and free discussions. But it goes without saying that they need to be legal and in no violation of anybody else's trademark or other intellectual property rights. We also think it is fair to require ANY website to clearly identify who the people and/or organisations behind it are. And we require that such community sites do not impose restrictions on our software that we don't impose, like the requirement for registration before you are allowed to download.

Why didn't you register the mysql.org domain?

Today, we regret we do not have it. But we also feel that the trademark should be sufficient protection in itself. A good example is our main domain MySQL.com, for which we are thankful to Patrick Lynch, who serves as an example of how we would want everybody to behave. Patrick registered the MySQLcom domain in 1997 "so that it would not get taken" and instantly transferred it to us with the words "I really appreciate all your hard work on the BEST sql database. I enjoy using it and think it deserves the mysql.com domain."

The mysql.org site used to point to MySQL.com, and we were just unaware of NuSphere's attempts to acquire it. When we learned that NuSphere had acquired the domain on 4 June 2001, we immediately asked them to transfer it to us. They refused.

Do you claim that "NuSphere MySQL Advantage" is in violation of the GPL terms?

Yes. The product contains MySQL[tm] under GPL and Gemini. Gemini is statically linked to the MySQL code. This means that Gemini needs to be under GPL as well, but it is not.

NuSphere claims that it will soon release Gemini under GPL, and we very much welcome that. But the products they have shipped are and continue to be in GPL violation.

Have you refused to accept contributions by NuSphere to the MySQL[tm] code?

As far as we know they have not tried to contribute to the MySQL code. They have tried to persuade us to include a third-party function, but we were not persuaded. See our answer above regarding contributions to the MySQL[tm] code.

Did NuSphere pay MySQL AB $2.5 million?

NuSphere (or Progress) have not paid MySQL AB $2.5 million. Under the interim agreement, they have paid a total of $312,501 and the last check was cut in September 2000.

For those unaware of the history, Progress in June 2000 agreed in an interim agreement to pay MySQL AB up to $2.5 million and this information was presented in press releases around that time.

Has NuSphere sued you?

Yes. On 15 June 2001, while meeting with NuSphere and Progress in Boston for the purpose of resolving our differences, NuSphere and Progress sued David Axmark personally, Michael "Monty" Widenius personally, MySQL AB, TcX DataKonsult AB, and something they call John Doe Corporation for "breach of contract, tortious interference with third party contracts and relationships and unfair competition".

Have you sued NuSphere?

Yes. We filed a claim on 11 July 2001 for trademark infringement, breach of the interim agreement, breach of the GPL license, and unfair and deceptive trade practices.

Why didn't you try to settle?

But we did! Although MySQL AB was enthusiastic about the prospects of working together with NuSphere, from the start we had different views on how our relationship would work. So, we signed an interim agreement in which we agreed to work together to reach a final, formal agreement. Even after NuSphere persisted in shrugging off our overtures to negotiate the final agreement, and then refused to acknowledge our rights, we continued to press for a business resolution. And, even after NuSphere went on with their unfair business practices, and we saw no other alternative but to send a formal termination of the interim agreement, we immediately flew thousands of miles to see them to discuss how we could work together. We spent three days in Bedford, MA doing this, but "all we got was this lousy lawsuit" (if some humour is allowed here).

Are you attempting to "change rules in mid-agreement" with NuSphere?

No. Monty and David always were clear to communicate to Progress and NuSphere what their intention with MySQL AB was. The company has a mission of making superior database management available and affordable for all. MySQL AB is committed to open source; it is a commercial entity; MySQL AB wishes to have non-exclusive partnerships; MySQL AB needs to have full control over its trademark; and MySQL AB will retain full control over what goes into the product called "MySQL". There are numerous emails from both NuSphere/Progress and MySQL AB that confirm this.

It should also be noted that it is not "mid-agreement" any longer. The interim agreement was signed in June 2000, and NuSphere/Progress made payments for three months. Thereafter they have paid nothing under the interim agreement. MySQL AB continued to believe in the prospects of a partnership for several months. In the spring of 2001 it was clear to us that NuSphere was not honouring the interim agreement, and in June 2001, MySQL AB confirmed to NuSphere in writing that the interim agreement was terminated. Thus there is no business agreement between NuSphere (or Progress) and MySQL AB.

Do you have any interest to work with NuSphere any more?

We have suggested to NuSphere a partnership model around open source principles that would be beneficial to both partners. We have also alerted them to conduct of theirs that violates our rights. Our hope is that they will acknowledge this and take corrective action. When that happens, there should be nothing stopping the two of us from entering into a partnership.

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MySQL AB develops, supports and markets the MySQL[tm] database server worldwide. MySQL AB, the sole owner of the MySQL[tm] trademark, is fully committed to the Open Source philosophy and to making MySQL[tm] available and affordable for all. MySQL AB is a Swedish privately held company co-founded by David Axmark, Allan Larsson and Michael Widenius. MySQL[tm] is a trademark of MySQL AB in the US, Sweden, and other countries, and is registered in Sweden and 13 other countries.

Other names are trademarks of their respective owners.

For more information, please visit http://www.mysql.com/ or write to <opensource@mysql.com>.