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Another Loss For GPLv 3?

Two little words, one very big difference.

Open source database vendor MySQL AB recently altered some of the wording of its license in order to let users know that it won't automatically be licensed under the next version of the General Public License, or GPL  version 3, when that draft is finalized.

The move signals that MySQL AB is protecting its options regarding what may or may not make its way into the next version of the open source license, and opting for control over the licensing process by sticking with the current GPL v2. MySQL isn't the only open source group making such as move. The Linux kernel itself is likely to remain as GPL version 2.

GPL version 2 is the premier open source license in use today and is currently undergoing discussion and draft revision. After two drafts in 2006, a third and final draft is expected early this year. Among the key changes in the new license are new terms regarding patents and digital rights management.

The change to the MySQL licensing terms revises the words "GPLv2 or later" to read "GPLv2 only," according to a blog posting by Kaj Arnö, a MySQL AB vice president of community. According to Arno, the change was necessary "in order to make it an option, not an obligation for the company to move to GPLv3." Arno did not respond to request for comment by press time.

What MySQL is doing is taking advantage of a loophole in Section 9 of the current GPL license. For example, GPL version 2 states that each version of the GPL has a specific version number, and that licensees "have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that version or of any later version published by the Free Software Foundation."

However, it continues, if "the Program does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation."

Linus Torvalds has taken a similar approach with the Linux kernel by licensing it under GPLv2 only and not the GPL v2 of later versions. Torvalds and other Linux kernel developers to date have not been in favor of the GPL v3 draft.

MySQL, however, has been an active participant in the GPL v. 3 discussion process. Arno himself was the co-chair of the 'B' Committee for GPL v 3 discussion. But his blog post spelled out the issue: "[U]ntil we get clear and strong indications for the general acceptance of GPLv3 over GPLv2, we feel comfortable with a specific GPLv2 reference in our license."