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19 June 2013, 14:38

Oracle bug accidentally removes GPL licence from MySQL man pages

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MySQL logo Oracle accidentally changed the licence of MySQL manual pages from the previous GPLv2 licence to a non-free licence. The change was revealed by Colin Charles, MariaDB evangelist, in a post on the MariaDB Foundation's blog. But as the news spread, a bug report in Oracle's issue tracker revealed that what had been found was actually a problem in the build system.

Oracle's Tomas Ulin explained that the bug would be fixed and that corrected releases of the MySQL GPL/Community packages would be rebuilt and made available. "We apologize for the confusion this has caused," added Ulin, who invited any users concerned about changes to file bugs as "Reporting a bug is always a good way to communicate with us".

While MySQL's reference manuals and other documentation has never been under a GPL licence (for example, the 2009 MySQL 5.1 manual copyright notice says "This documentation is NOT distributed under a GPL licence") the manual pages are different. The manual pages are shipped as part of the MySQL source archive and are licensed under the GPLv2. The bug seemed to use the copyright text as used in the reference documentation and release notes in the source code for the manual pages and was likely imported from the enterprise edition of MySQL, which is under a closed-source license.

The concern over the change in the manual pages reflected the possible ramifications of such a change. For the MariaDB Foundation it would have meant yet another element of MySQL to fork and maintain and Linux distributions that ship only free software would have had to reconsider including MySQL in binary or source form as its manual pages had become non-free. Fortunately, in this case, that scenario did not come to pass.



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