Be Cautious About MySQL Licensing (was Re: Database suggestions?)

Dan Shafer revdan at
Sat May 14 17:35:23 EDT 2005

In this discussion, it's important not to lose sight of Chipp  
Walters' early comment that MySQL is NOT free for commercial use. I  
was always under the impression that it was but when Chipp raised  
that with me about 18 months ago and I went to the MySQL folks to  
investigate, I found a dismayingly confusing plethora of license  
terms and warnings that frankly scared me away from using the product.

If you are doing commercial deployment of Rev relational database  
apps, and you don't want to or can't factor in the MySQL pricing, you  
need to confine your choices to PostgreSQL, Valentina, and, if you're  
writing single-user apps, altSQLite.

FWIW, MySQL ( has cleaned up its message a lot  
in the last year or so. They are now much clearer about when you need  
their commercial license (at $595/server/yr. for basic support and  
$1495/server/yr. for extended support) and when the free GPL license  
will suffice.

But as I understand it (and I could be wrong about this but two  
attorneys have told me I'm right), if I, e.g., deploy an application  
designed to run on a user's desktop with a locally connected database  
or on a user's LAN where, again, the database resides on their server  
rather than mine, then I owe MySQL AB the server fee for each  
instance. That means (again, I'm hedging my bet here by saying I'm  
not sure this is correct, but I believe it is) I would pay $595/ 
client/year because each would have to have a local instance of the  
MySQL server running.

When I asked the MySQL AB folks if I'd have to pay this fee per  
client in cases where the client already has a MySQL instance running  
(e.g., it comes free with OS X as I recall), they said, "Well, it  
depends on the nature of the license of the providing party (in this  
case, Apple), but to be safe, you'd probably want to pay for it  
separately." They can't (or won't) tell me whether Apple's license  
covers me or not and Apple has not responded to my queries, either.

At the end of the day, and in keeping with my desire to stay out of  
courtrooms, I decided not to use MySQL in any situation where there  
might ever be a doubt about the licensing issue. That essentially  
means I don't use MySQL unless I'm designing an app I'm willing to  
distribute free as open source.

Dan Shafer, Co-Chair
RevConWest '05
June 17-18, 2005, Monterey, California

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