mySQL on ISP cannot be used for free by customers of ISP

Richard Gaskin ambassador at
Sun Feb 15 14:42:51 EST 2009

MySQL'a dual licensing has been the source of a lot of confusion for 
quite a long time, and what few notes can be found at their site about 
when their license requires a license doesn't help a great many people 
make an appropriate determination.

I've written them to get clarification on three specific usage scenarios 
that are not uncommon, and while their sales staff was quick to reply to 
my interest in possibly getting a license I've not heard back from them 
on whether it's actually needed in the scenarios I'm considering.

Here's an example of the confusion, from JoelOnSoftware:

This comment there tries to help sort it out:

    Most of the things mentioned here are irrelevant.
    more specifically:

    "If you develop and distribute a commercial application and
    as part of utilizing your application, the end-user must
    download a copy of MySQL; for each derivative work, you (or,
    in some cases, your end-user) need a commercial license for
    the MySQL server and/or MySQL client libraries."

Unfortunately that URL no longer points to the material cited, so you 
have to wade through the links there to try to find guidance on how the 
license applies to a given use.

Here's a scenario I can't figure out:  if I make a DB on my server using 
my own proprietary code running on top of MySQL, and I sell 
subscriptions to this proprietary system, do the "per seat" definitions 
for MySQL licensing apply to my customers as "seats" for my DB use? 
Still waiting to hear back from them on that.

It's too bad they don't make it simpler for folks to understand when 
it's necessary to purchase a license and how much it will cost.  It's 
confusing for the market and no doubt they lose a great many sales based 
on the near-ubiquitous -- if erroneous -- presumption that it's always 
gratis. Free as in freedom != free as in beer. ;)

Ruslan, I couldn't find the original post you quoted. Where did this 
thread originate?

It would be ironic in a discussion of copyright protection to have 
material copied without permission from the author. ;)

  Richard Gaskin
  Fourth World Media Corporation
  Ambassador at

Ruslan Zasukhin wrote:

> On 2/15/09 1:41 PM, "Thorsten Hohage" <thohage at> wrote:
> Hi Thorsten,
> This is very interesting and I should say new info for me.
> I believe many times on RB and Revolution list (especially) people express
> point that they can use mySQL of their ISPs for free.
> Info which you provide below changes things a lots.
> I will CC this to REV list for info.
>>>> But mySQL is not totally free, even when used at an ISP! Many, many
>>>> customer of ISPs go in a big trap, because they used the offered mySQL
>>>> licence from the ISP for their commercial use what is in sense of  mySQL
>>>> legals not allowed.
>>> Why you think so?
>> Because I read and discussed the given mySQL licence terms when
>> dealing with that issues (and I break them like anybody else :-))
>> The fact that mySQL is free for ISPs and they put them on their
>> servers does NOT mean everybody being a customer for such a package
>> can use it for free!
>> Of course e.g. when you're going to use let us say Joomla, then Joomla
>> is Open Source, too and AFAIK then your content will not be some kind
>> of "Open Content".
>> But when you develop a software using this hosted mySQL, then you must
>> decide PAY or Open Source it, and it doesn't matter if this is hosted
>> at your ISP or not.

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