back to article Oracle exec: Open-source vendors locking down licences proves 'they were never really open'

Open-source vendors that haven't already switched to less permissive licences will do so this year as the move to the cloud threatens their business models, a senior Oracle exec has said. In an interview at Oracle’s London OpenWorld event, Andy Mendelsohn, executive veep for Big Red’s database tech, admitted that Oracle had …

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  1. Starace
    Alert

    Not because of open source

    It's their licensing practices and everything they do to protect their revenues that make Oracle the bad guy, open source or not has very little to do with it.

    Also consider this is a company that not only has a closed product but also spent years in court protecting their published APIs - that's true dedication to 'closed' systems.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not because of open source

      You took the words right out of my mouth.

      Oracle's business model appears to be lock-them-in-and-hold-them-to-ransom-for-every-penny-they've got. I'd have said that closed source was "only" a means to that end in that case... but the point is that it *does* provide a very strong means to that end.

      Then again, Oracle would probably find a way via legal/contractual means to lock people in anyway if the software they used was open source. At least there would be less of an excuse to buy it from them in the first place if they weren't the sole vendor.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not because of open source

        “Oracle's business model appears to be lock-them-in-and-hold-them-to-ransom-for-every-penny-they've got. ”

        You missed the “and make them squeal. If the stop squealing, squeeze harder”

        And Oracle apply the same tactics to their own salespeople.

        If Oracle think they are disliked purely for being closed source, they have a long way to go before understanding the real problem people have with Oracle. Perhaps Oracle could talk to their customers? I said talk...not audit the...again...

      2. Mark 65 Silver badge

        Re: Not because of open source

        Yachts don't buy themselves

  2. alain williams Silver badge

    Translation: Oracle is hurting

    "wouldn't it be nice if we did not have Open Source competitors."

  3. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    ---- ZFS.

    /drops mic.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > /drops mic.

      I'm not familiar with ZFS - is that the equivalent of a 'drop table' statement?

      ;-)

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Angel

        I am very familiar with the fork of ZFS used in FreeBSD, and it is a totally amazing blockchain[1] based filesystem that is super reliable.

        [1] No really, it is. This paper

        https://blogs.oracle.com/bonwick/zfs-end-to-end-data-integrity

        was written in 2005 before blockchain entered the buzzword dictionary, but you see things like

        "A ZFS storage pool is really just a tree of blocks"

        "The blocks of a ZFS storage pool form a Merkle tree in which each block validates all of its children."

        Blockchain is just another word for Merkle tree.

        So, when I put my Sage data and spreadsheets on a zfs share about 10 years ago, that means I had implemented a blockchain based accounting system.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          "So, when I put my Sage data and spreadsheets on a zfs share about 10 years ago, that means I had implemented a blockchain based accounting system."

          If you'd said that you were planning to do that only two years ago you'd have had VCs throwing their money at you.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      ZFS

      I use ZFS on several systems, just they happen to be non-GPL systems, the issue here being GPL only - which is just one of the available licenses (even if too many people have been brainwashed into thinking is the anointed one and built a cult around it) and its restrictiveness keeps some people away.

      I really don't care if my storage systems run on some flavour of BSD instead of Linux.

  4. Pirate Dave
    Pirate

    I guess if an Executive VP says it, it's gotta all be true, right? And he's in no way trying to steer people's thinking or opinions about Oracle. No, he's just pointing out things, and those things just happen to make Oracle look better. In a better light. Less like a 1200-pound troll, more like a dainty little fairy, floating about granting wishes and making the world a generally better place. That's Oracle. Oracle is good. Oracle would really like you to understand Oracle. Once you understand Oracle, you will understand that Oracle is good. Don't you want to love Oracle now? Oracle loves you. Oracle loves everyone. Oracle is love. All you have to do is say it - "I love Oracle". Can you say that? Can you? For me? For Oracle? Good. Don't you feel better now?

    Creepy...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How do you tell when someone from Oracle is either...

    1) Telling you lies

    and/or

    2) Wanting another £100,000 in license money

    Answer

    The open their mouth.

    And to think that I was once an Oracle certified DBA. Shudder. Oh the shame.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: How do you tell when someone from Oracle is either...

      Oracle only wants 100K in license fees from you? It must be nice working at a place where you are able to be on a first-name basis with everyone.

      1. EnviableOne Bronze badge

        Re: How do you tell when someone from Oracle is either...

        2) Wanting another £100,000 in license money

        the key is the another not the 100K

        every time you talk to them the model has changed and you NEED a new feature, for just another 100K

  6. Crypto Monad

    So redis changed their license to stop someone running a pay-for cloud service based on it, but I can still download it and run it myself for free; and if I am sufficiently motivated I can also modify and extend it.

    That's very different to Oracle's model.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fear the ghost of future open source license costs

      This is almost exclusively targeted at MongoDB - sure Oracles expensive now, but MongoDB will be just as expensive *cough* in a few years *cough* so why waste all that money developing non-Oracle solutions.

      I don’t blame Redis for moving to a different licensing model, their market (and many other open source solutions that are fundamental to cloud scale platforms) will fail to grow if the cloud scale providers bundle it as part of another service - I’m not sure that’s the case with MongoDB.

      1. alittletooraph

        Re: Fear the ghost of future open source license costs

        MongoDB's still free to download, use however you want (as long as you're not building a Mongo service that competes directly with MongoDB). Pretty different from Oracle still.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pots, kettles and a non-reflective surface covering

    Moreover, Big Red's database exec – who has been with the firm 35 years – said that the fact open-source vendors are now changing their licensing models effectively rendered them "proprietary vendors… with a lock-in strategy".

    Oh noes, I might get locked in! Better switch back to Oracle or SQL Server then.

    "Whatever semblance of openness they had, they're trying to take back… because it's going to be hard for them to survive in the cloud world if anybody can just pick up their code and just build a cloud service out of it."

    Sounds easy. Perhaps Oracle should have done that instead of trying to build a cloud service out your own DB?

    BTW, how's that JEDI lawsuit going?

  8. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    FAIL

    Would he like a thankyou note...

    ... for giving us all the facts spin

  9. JohnFen Silver badge

    Your post will be updated soon - be patient. You have 10 minutes after posting to make it better.

    Yes, the bad companie are

    "Whatever semblance of openness they had, they're trying to take back… because it's going to be hard for them to survive in the cloud world if anybody can just pick up their code and just build a cloud service out of it."

    Yes, the bad companies are. Fortunately, good devs continue to exist. Plus, they can't retroactively change the licensing of code that's already been issuing under most OSS licenses. They have to develop something new and release it with a new license.

    1. Blank Reg

      Re: Yes, the bad companie are

      Not if they own the code. They can fork a proprietary product off from the open source version and never contribute back to the open source side. So eventually they will be two separate products

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Yes, the bad companie are

        "They can fork a proprietary product off from the open source version and never contribute back to the open source side."

        That depends on which license they released the OSS code under and whether or not the code base includes code contributed by others. Of course, even with the most restrictive licenses, they could just ignore their own licensing terms and hope that nobody does anything about it (which is probably a reasonable bet), but they'd still be in violation.

        Regardless, the code they've already released remains under the terms of the license it was released under, so they can't take that back.

        "So eventually they will be two separate products"

        Which I'm actually fine with. It just means that I wouldn't be using their new product.

        1. MontyMole

          Re: Yes, the bad companie are

          Using their old product under the old license works fine for a while until there are freshly discovered security issues and then you've got to find some patches. You can't just grab their new release (which will be under the new license).

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Yes, the bad companie are

            True, and if that's something of importance to you, then it's worth keeping in mind.

            However, if the OSS version is popular (which it likely is, or the company wouldn't be trying to take it private), then it will get security updates from the OSS maintainers (and you can also fix it yourself if you're so inclined), so the odds of this being a critical point are low.

            And honestly, in terms of security, I trust the OSS community a whole lot more than than the closed-source community. And doubly so if the closed source community we're talking about is Oracle.

          2. ltgerome

            Re: Yes, the bad companie are

            The license can be revoked in the USA, yes even the old one. It is a gratuitous bare license and your permission can be ended by the owner whenever he wishes. And yes: the FSF and SFConservancy are lying to you.

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: Yes, the bad companie are

              Can you support this claim?

              1. ltgerome

                Re: Yes, the bad companie are

                The best I can do is tell you to go to law school and study. When I explain the foundations of licensing law, programmers simply don't believe me because they think it "doesn't make common sense", they think they gave away their code. They become very angry when informed that they have rights to their own works. They refuse to understand licensing and copyright and believe they know all there is to know in all fields because they know some things in one field.

                The second best thing I can do is quote some published lawyers who wrote on the topic:

                >p46 "As long as the project continues to honor the terms of the licenses under which it recieved contributions, the licenses continue in effect. There is one important caveat: Even a perpetual license can be revoked. See the discussion of bare licenses and contracts in Chapter 4"

                --Lawrence Rosen

                >p56 "A third problem with bare licenses is that they may be revocable by the licensor. Specifically, /a license not coupled with an interest may be revoked./ The term /interest/ in this context usually means the payment of some royalty or license fee, but there are other more complicated ways to satisfy the interest requirement. For example, a licensee can demonstrate that he or she has paid some consideration-a contract law term not found in copyright or patent law-in order to avoid revocation. Or a licensee may claim that he or she relied on the software licensed under an open source license and now is dependent upon that software, but this contract law concept, called promissory estoppel, is both difficult to prove and unreliable in court tests. (The concepts of /consideration/ and /promissory estoppel/ are explained more fully in the next section.) Unless the courts allow us to apply these contract law principles to a license, we are faced with a bare license that is revocable.

                --Lawrence Rosen

                >p278 "Notice that in a copyright dispute over a bare license, the plaintiff will almost certainly be the copyright owner. If a licensee were foolish enough to sue to enforce the terms and conditions of the license, the licensor can simply revoke the bare license, thus ending the dispute. Remeber that a bare license in the absence of an interest is revocable."

                --Lawrence Rosen

                Lawrence Rosen - Open Source Licensing - Sofware Freedom and Intellectual property Law

                >p65 "Of all the licenses descibed in this book, only the GPL makes the explicity point that it wants nothing of /acceptance/ of /consideration/:

                >...

                >The GPL authors intend that it not be treated as a contract. I will say much more about this license and these two provisions in Chapter 6. For now, I simply point out that the GPL licensors are in essentially the same situation as other open source licensors who cannot prove offer, acceptance, or consideration. There is no contract."

                --Lawrence Rosen

                ----

                >David McGowan, Professor of Law, University of Minnesota Law School:

                >"Termination of rights

                >[...] The most plausible assumption is that a developer who releases code under the GPL may terminate GPL rights, probably at will.

                >[...] My point is not that termination is a great risk, it is that it is not recognized as a risk even though it is probably relevant to commercial end-users, accustomed to having contractual rights they can enforce themselves.

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Yes, the bad companie are

                "Can you support this claim?"

                There have been a couple of cases so far relating to the heirs(*) of opensource copyrights rescinding GPL licenses and demanding royalties/licensing fees. This is expected to become more and more of a problem as time goes on. (We've all seen how people can be moneygrubbing ghouls when it comes to dead relatives)

                (*) As in "not the authors, but inherited upon the author's demise"

                This is one of the reasons that FSF require that copyrights be assigned to them if they are to take up the baton on GPL violations (Apart from the issue of providing standing in court, they want to ensure that what they're fighting to keep open and free STAYS open and free)

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Yes, the bad companie are

            "Using their old product under the old license works fine for a while until there are freshly discovered security issues and then you've got to find some patches."

            Ahem: MySQL -> Maria

            Problem solved.

    2. ltgerome

      Re: Yes, the bad companie are

      "Plus, they can't retroactively change the licensing of code that's already been issuing under most OSS licenses. They have to develop something new and release it with a new license."

      You are incorrect. Where there is a bare license (just permission given (GPL, BSD, etc)) and no attached interest (you did not pay for the license), the license can be revoked at will. You have not secured your interest. Property law 101 in the USA.

      The grantor is NOT bound by the "terms", YOU are. You need permission to use his property at all in the first place. You "obeying" the license is NOT a forbearance of a legal right you otherwise would have had (you have no right to use his property without the permission).

      So yes, it can be retroactively revoked. It is not a transfer of the code to you: only permission to use. If you did not pay for that permission the grantor is not bound by the "terms".

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Yes, the bad companie are

        "So yes, it can be retroactively revoked. It is not a transfer of the code to you: only permission to use."

        Again, it depends on the exact license we're talking about. But most OSS licenses I've seen grant a worldwide, nonexclusive, nonrevocable license.

        "If you did not pay for that permission the grantor is not bound by the "terms"."

        I am not a lawyer, and I would love it if a lawyer could comment on this. But it seems to me that if what you say is true, then there are a whole lot of licenses people and businesses depend on outside the OSS world that aren't valid at all. That smells wrong to me.

        Even if it's right, it changes nothing, though. Taking the code private only means that I wouldn't use any new releases.

        I'm also curious about what happens to the contributions from outside developers. If the license is revoked, that equally means that outside code contributions are no longer legal for the project to use and must be excised.

        1. ltgerome

          Re: Yes, the bad companie are

          >Again, it depends on the exact license we're talking about. But most OSS licenses I've seen grant a worldwide, nonexclusive, nonrevocable license.

          The GPLv2 does not, BSD does not, etc. And even it it did, that term would be unsupported in most cases.

          Remember: by default you have no right to modify, redistribute, etc the code.

          The code has not been donated to you as a gift.

          The owner has chosen to give you permission to use it, he has lent it to you essentially (that is what a license is)

          Following the terms regarding his property is not a relinquishing of a legal right on your part.

          If you wanted to "lock in" a term and be able to hold the owner to a "deal" then you would have to contract for it.

          You would have to give him bargained-for consideration (money, or forego a legal right of yours, perform a service the owner wants, etc).

          Have a meeting of the minds, all of that.

          Most people have not.

          Most traditional (GPL, BSD) OSS copyright owners have not sought such.

          >I am not a lawyer, and I would love it if a lawyer could comment on this.

          You just had one. I made it simple for you here.

          That is the rule. You can beg the court under equity not to allow the owner to enforce his rights against you specifically if you wish, as in any case.

          (Throwing yourself on the mercy of the court), but by law it is the owners right to rescind these licenses which are bare permissions granted from the owner to you.

          You now know the reason the FSF has always required contributors to sign over their copyrights, and why most large OSS projects do aswell.

          >I'm also curious about what happens to the contributions from outside developers. If the license is revoked, that equally means that outside code contributions are no longer legal for the project to use and must be excised.

          Correct. If copyright owner X rescinds from Project, Project must remove the property (effectively "returning" it).

          This is why Contributor Agreements are all the rage: they make you sign over your copyrights to the Project before they will accept anything.

          Linux-Kernel never did however... Many other projects didn't either.

          1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

            Re: Yes, the bad companie are

            The GPL specifically gives you the right to modify and redistribute the code, under the terms of the license:

            "This file is part of yoshimi, which is free software: you can redistribute

            it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU Library General Public

            License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of

            the License, or (at your option) any later version."

  10. karlkarl Bronze badge

    Lol, aww look at those twits trying to muddy up the meaning of what open-source means to other twits.

  11. Jay Lenovo Silver badge
    Angel

    Games of Owns

    So he's suggesting...

    OpenSource is like Daenerys Stormborn, and Oracle are the Masters.

    ...and apparently we've been deceived so back to the slaves' quarters we should go?

  12. hititzombisi
    Megaphone

    Oh look, an Oracle exec talking bollocks.

    My database looping with the following SQL statement:

    select day_name from calendar where day_name like '%day';

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It must suck to be Oracle

    Are we supposed to feel sorry for them because they can't rape, pillage and extort with impunity?

    Somebody whip out the violin and play us a sad tune!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Circling the drain

    Oracle seen as the bad guy?! Are they having an existential crisis?

    Let's put it simply, just because a rapist stops raping doesn't mean he's no longer a rapist.

  15. DuncanLarge Bronze badge

    My god its like I'm back in the 90's

    What a retro minded individual.

    Everything he says about having to "lock the source down" etc is right out of the 90's.

    Lock your source down if you like. Leave Open Source (I'm presuming that includes Free Software in his statements). Bye bye, make sure you dont let the door hit you on the way out. Nice seeing you, thanks for bringing the bottle of wine.

  16. HumorousName

    My reason to be fond of them has gone

    I used to quite like Oracle because at least they were honest about being lying money grabbing bastards

  17. Simon B-52

    Wilful misrepresentation

    These actions, Mendelsohn said, "just shows these companies were never really open in the first place"

    These words, Simon said "just show that Mendelsohn succesfully completed Lying For Politicians 101"

    How thick do you think the people you're talking to are? Tosser.

  18. ltgerome

    Author rescinds GPL license retroactivly (yes he can do that)

    The author of the GPL licensed text-mode casino game "GPC-Slots 2" has rescinded the license from the "Geek feminist" collective.

    ( https://lkml.org/lkml/2019/1/17/52 )

    ( https://slashdot.org/submission/9087542/author-recinds-gpl )

    ------------------------------------------------------------

    >p46 "As long as the project continues to honor the terms of the licenses under which it recieved contributions, the licenses continue in effect. There is one important caveat: Even a perpetual license can be revoked. See the discussion of bare licenses and contracts in Chapter 4"

    --Lawrence Rosen

    >p56 "A third problem with bare licenses is that they may be revocable by the licensor. Specifically, /a license not coupled with an interest may be revoked./ The term /interest/ in this context usually means the payment of some royalty or license fee, but there are other more complicated ways to satisfy the interest requirement. For example, a licensee can demonstrate that he or she has paid some consideration-a contract law term not found in copyright or patent law-in order to avoid revocation. Or a licensee may claim that he or she relied on the software licensed under an open source license and now is dependent upon that software, but this contract law concept, called promissory estoppel, is both difficult to prove and unreliable in court tests. (The concepts of /consideration/ and /promissory estoppel/ are explained more fully in the next section.) Unless the courts allow us to apply these contract law principles to a license, we are faced with a bare license that is revocable.

    --Lawrence Rosen

    >p278 "Notice that in a copyright dispute over a bare license, the plaintiff will almost certainly be the copyright owner. If a licensee were foolish enough to sue to enforce the terms and conditions of the license, the licensor can simply revoke the bare license, thus ending the dispute. Remeber that a bare license in the absence of an interest is revocable."

    --Lawrence Rosen

    Lawrence Rosen - Open Source Licensing - Sofware Freedom and Intellectual property Law

    >p65 "Of all the licenses descibed in this book, only the GPL makes the explicity point that it wants nothing of /acceptance/ of /consideration/:

    >...

    >The GPL authors intend that it not be treated as a contract. I will say much more about this license and these two provisions in Chapter 6. For now, I simply point out that the GPL licensors are in essentially the same situation as other open source licensors who cannot prove offer, acceptance, or consideration. There is no contract."

    --Lawrence Rosen

    ----

    >David McGowan, Professor of Law, University of Minnesota Law School:

    >"Termination of rights

    >[...] The most plausible assumption is that a developer who releases code under the GPL may terminate GPL rights, probably at will.

    >[...] My point is not that termination is a great risk, it is that it is not recognized as a risk even though it is probably relevant to commercial end-users, accustomed to having contractual rights they can enforce themselves.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Author rescinds GPL license retroactivly (yes he can do that)

      Your snipping of Mr Rosen's text makes it look like he is implying that it is impossible, in law, to put something in the public domain. That, in turn, would make all the references to the public domain that occur in law and all the mentions of the concept that have ever been made in court cases, a waste of breath. I suspect that the legal profession might beg to differ on that one. I further suspect that Mr Rosen's full text probably doesn't imply exactly that.

      1. ltgerome

        Re: Author rescinds GPL license retroactivly (yes he can do that)

        You have a member of the legal profession responding to you right now (USA). Code licensed under the GPL, BSD, etc have not been placed in the public domain. Believe whatever conspiracy you wish however.

        I really do not give a shit if you don't believe me. Insinuate that I'm a liar again if you want to catch a libel case.

        Read the book yourself: https://www.amazon.com/Open-Source-Licensing-Software-Intellectual/dp/0131487876

        > That, in turn, would make all the references to the public domain that occur in law and all the mentions of the concept that have ever been made in court cases, a waste of breath.

        You rest your argument on your completely ignorant notion that OSS licensed software has been dedicated to the Public Domain. It has not.

        However, any unsupported "promises" written on the pieces of paper that hold the license terms, indeed, are generally NOT worth the paper they are printed on.

        Let me put it to you simply: You paid nothing, you have nothing. Do you get it?

        Owner lends you his property under licensing terms. You pay him nothing, and forego no legal rights (you have none to the property).

        He demands the property back. You must give it back (the license is revoked).

        Since you did not pay him you cannot go to the court and say "Legally, I have the right to enforce this term against the grantor".

        No: you have no contract, you paid him nothing.

        Just as he can demand back his lawnmower he lent you, he can demand you stop using his code.

        1. Down not across

          Re: Author rescinds GPL license retroactivly (yes he can do that)

          You rest your argument on your completely ignorant notion that OSS licensed software has been dedicated to the Public Domain. It has not.

          This is an important point, that perhaps sometimes gets missed. Most OSS software is indeed not Public Domain, but licensed under more or less restrictive licenses. Copyright is retained, the license is granted for copying,modifying,using etc.

          1. ltgerome

            Re: Author rescinds GPL license retroactivly (yes he can do that)

            And the license can be rescinded because it is not backed by anything.

            Just as you can recall physical property you have gratuitously lent, you can do the same for code, regardless of the "terms".

      2. ltgerome

        Re: Author rescinds GPL license retroactivly (yes he can do that)

        You have a member of the legal profession responding to you right now (USA). Code licensed under the GPL, BSD, etc have not been placed in the public domain. Believe whatever conspiracy you wish however.

        I really do not give a care if you don't believe me. Insinuate that I'm a liar again if you want to catch a libel case.

        Read the book yourself: https://www.amazon.com/Open-Source-Licensing-Software-Intellectual/dp/0131487876

        > That, in turn, would make all the references to the public domain that occur in law and all the mentions of the concept that have ever been made in court cases, a waste of breath.

        You rest your argument on your completely ignorant notion that OSS licensed software has been dedicated to the Public Domain. It has not.

        However, any unsupported "promises" written on the pieces of paper that hold the license terms, indeed, are generally NOT worth the paper they are printed on.

        Let me put it to you simply: You paid nothing, you have nothing. Do you get it?

        Owner lends you his property under licensing terms. You pay him nothing, and forego no legal rights (you have none to the property).

        He demands the property back. You must give it back (the license is revoked).

        Since you did not pay him you cannot go to the court and say "Legally, I have the right to enforce this term against the grantor".

        No: you have no contract, you paid him nothing.

        Just as he can demand back his lawnmower he lent you, he can demand you stop using his code.

      3. ltgerome

        Re: Author rescinds GPL license retroactivly (yes he can do that)

        >Your snipping of Mr Rosen's text make...

        I see you'd rather me copy and paste the whole book, violating his copyright (the whole book wouldn't be fair use) instead. Nope: go buy it moron.

  19. ltgerome

    Author Rescinds GPL

    Author Rescinds GPL: https://lkml.org/lkml/2019/1/17/52

  20. RLWatkins

    Java, anyone?

    As I recall, Sun placed Java in the public domain before Oracle bought the company, yet Oracle has been trying to stuff that genie back into the lamp ever since, to the point of telling users during this last Java update to be prepared in the future to pay Oracle for its use, so Oracle's people are in no position to criticize anyone.

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