Peter Wayner, a MySQL user who teaches classes on the subject, wrote
something to me to post concerning the meaning of the GPL for
application service providers.
The area is a deeply fractured area of the GPL and there's no easy fix.
The notion of linking was a great distinction when everything was
statically linked at compile time. But now the Internet and the
websites are dynamic linking on steroids. The boundaries just don't
exist. I've discussed it with other GPL devotees in the past and they
didn't seem too interested in opening up the discussion. I don't think
they have a good answer. The distinction was a politically expedient
one from the beginning and it was probably the right choice to make way
back when. Now, they can't find a better one.
In some sense, we can't be overly logical about it. Computer scientists
can always find someway to rework the protocol to get around any
semantic barrier. I think the MySQL's attitude is politically more
intelligent. As one person told me, the license cost is cheaper than
hiring a lawyer just to read the license and see if you can get out of
the license requirement.