Stallman Urges EC to Stop Oracle Acquisition of Sun

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2009-10-20 Print this article Print

UPDATED: Digital civil liberties organization Open Rights Group, Knowledge Ecology International and software developer Richard Stallman tell the EC in a letter that they are concerned about Oracle's possible squashing of competition in the database market by abandoning MySQL.

Two software industry groups, along with free and open-source software community leader Richard Stallman, said Oct. 19 they are opposed to Oracle's planned acquisition of Sun Microsystems and urged European Commission regulators to block the $7.4 billion deal.

If the transaction, which was announced April 20 and approved Aug. 20 by the U.S. Department of Justice as not being against federal antitrust laws, is sanctioned by the EC, Oracle-through ownership of Sun-will have control of both the trademark and the key maintainers of the popular MySQL database, who work at Sun.

The Open Rights Group, a digital civil liberties organization, Knowledge Ecology International and Stallman told the EC's Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes in a co-written letter dated Oct. 19 that they are concerned about Oracle's possible squashing of competition in the database market.

"If Oracle is allowed to acquire MySQL, it will predictably limit the development of the functionality and performance of the MySQL software platform, leading to profound harm to those who use MySQL software to power applications," they wrote.

Stallman, ORG and KEI also said Oracle was likely to protect its core product, the Oracle proprietary database, from losing market share and shrinking licensing fees at the expense of MySQL.

The EC monitors commercial competition in the 27 countries that comprise the European Union. The Brussels-based panel is currently doing due diligence on Oracle's proposed takeover of Sun and has said it expects to have a decision by no later than Jan. 19, 2010 on whether to approve the deal.

Meanwhile, Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison has said Sun is losing about $100 million per month as the two companies wait for the EC to make its decision.

Stallman and the other open-source community activists contend that Oracle's ownership will hinder development of the popular open-source database, which relies heavily on volunteer contributions of time and talent.

MySQL is popular in the data centers of Web 2.0 companies such as Google, Yahoo and and has a loyal following in the midrange and small and midsize business markets.

Oracle makes a number of proprietary transactional databases, and the groups' contention is that Oracle will allow MySQL to fade away under its management.

Ellison calls Microsoft the main competitor for MySQL

However, Ellison said at the recent Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, "MySQL in no way competes with our databases. It has its own market and following. The main competitor is Microsoft, and that's okay by us."

There is a difference of opinion on this, even among MySQL founders. On Oct. 19, MySQL creator Michael Widenius urged Oracle to commit to selling MySQL in order to resolve antitrust concerns.

Back on Oct. 8, former MySQL CEO M??ærten Mickos sent a letter to Kroes, urging that the deal be approved for the good of the market and MySQL.

Kroes told Reuters in September that she was concerned that the acquisition could hinder competition in the database market and wanted to make sure alternatives would continue to be available to users.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the date, Jan. 19, 2010, by which the EC says it will make a decision on the Oracle-Sun acquisition.

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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