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Can you help me with my software licensing question?

I'm a developer and while working on a project a question came up about licensing.

The web application I'm working on will be closed source and we are looking at a few different hosting providers. Are commercial licenses required for using software released under GPL (i.e MySQL)? Or does the hosting provider take care of that?

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marked as duplicate by Scott Pack, Mark Henderson Feb 11 '12 at 3:30

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I have used and worked with many hosting providers and have never had to pay for a separate MySQL license for usage of that. A hosting company may or may not have a commercial license for MySQL, but I can't think of an instance where I ever paid for such a thing separately. Even in a dedicated host environment I've not seen that for MySQL. Now, SQL Server is another story, and depending on the hosting environment, you may be paying for such a license. But SQL Server is commercial non-OSS software, so it's in a different category.

Check out Frequently Asked Questions about the GNU Licenses -- look at the sections about paying money for GPL software.

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Well, I want to be legal about it, I'm asking if it's legally required. I'm pretty sure if you owned your own box at a Co-Location facility you'd have to pay for licenses for MySQL. I'm just not sure how it works at hosting providers where ALL the software is already installed. – Daniel Beardsley May 1 '10 at 4:01
Generally when you buy hosting you're buying the "resold service." It might be useful for you to read this article:… When are you required to have a commercial MySQL license? – artlung May 1 '10 at 4:34
Daniel, not the case with MySQL. MySQL is free software. What people pay for is support with regards to MySQL, but it's free software, and that makes it free. – artlung May 1 '10 at 4:39

Specifically, w/ mysql, you only need a commercial license if your are embedding the mysql product or parts of it in an application you are distributing, and don't want to distribute the source.

If you are just using the SQL interface to work w/ mysql, IIRC, you are all set to go.

If licensing is a concern for you, you may want to consider PostgreSQL, which is a BSD-like end-to-end.

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It depends.

If you are just running the software on a server somewhere, then no, you don’t need a commercial license (this may be a provision in GPLv3, but MySQL isn’t licensed under the GPLv3).

If you’re going to redistribute the software, then you will need one.

If the application doesn’t require MySQL, but makes use of it if present (perhaps MySQL is one of several options, for example), and so doesn’t depend upon the MySQL client library, and doesn’t statically link with it, then you may be able to do without the commercial license (you will want to check with a specialist lawyer, though, which may cost you more than the cost of the license!)

There are also two alternative options: use an alternative client library distributed under the terms of a different license, or write your own. There are several alternative libraries around (PHP includes one of its own, as an alternative to the module built on top of libmysqlclient for example).

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In the MySQL case, yes, you're required to have the commercial license. Usually hosting companies don't include a commercial MySQL license with their plans.

This is because the access library to MySQL is GPL, so you can't link it to any software that is not licensed in a GPL-compatible way. Including GPL software in a proprietary product is one of the few illegal ways to use it.

This is the basis of MySQL dual-licensing revenue model. This would be completely different for PostgreSQL, as the libraries are still free software, but not licensed with a strong copyleft license like the GPL.

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Some experts believe if you static link the library, then you're incorporating the GPLed software into your program, and you need a commercial license. If you dynamic link, you're not, it's separate, and you don't need a commercial license. It's not clear-cut, and there have not been any court decisions to date. – Chris S May 1 '10 at 15:25
My experience is as a licensing volunteer of the Free Software Foundation. You need to show that your work is not a derivative work. For that, you need to not only dynamic link such a library, but present another library that has the same interface, so you can establish that your app uses a public interface and is not a derivative work of a GPL library. – jneves May 1 '10 at 15:47

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