What does Mars v Oracle prove?
I have had several clients ask - "what does the Mars v Oracle court case mean for me?" Usually, the question is asked in relation to their use of virtualisation and Oracle databases. The brief answer to this is 'nothing definitive'. This famous court case was settled out of court. To my knowledge, Oracle has not allowed any compliance related matter concerning virtualisation to reach a ruling by a court in any jurisdiction in the world. Therefore any conclusions that can be sought from this case are subject to interpretation and can be no more than opinions, regardless of the expertise of the commentator providing the opinion. Questions that you may wish to ask yourself are:
Why did Oracle settle this out of court even though they attempted to terminate the Oracle licenses of Mars?
Why did this settlement happen so quickly?
Why are there no court rulings regarding the licensing Oracle in virtual instances as this has been an area of contention since the mid-2000's?
Why has not Oracle sought to publicise to the world that Oracle's view on how to license Oracle in virtual instances is enforceable?
We do not know what the settlement was - did Mars pay a huge noncompliance remediation fee? Does Mars still license Oracle in virtual environments in the same manner or did they agree to changes? No doubt these details will be wrapped up in settlement documents that cannot be disclosed. There were other questions raised by this case that were also left unanswered, did Oracle overreach the rights granted by their contracts in requesting reasonable assistance from Mars and access to information? Whilst not answered in that court case, there is a court case in the French courts, Oracle v Carrefour which was initiated by Oracle. The outcome appears to have favoured Carrefour and the court supported their refusal to grant Oracle access to their servers for an audit - but an audit did occur through the use of third parties. It is dangerous to assume that the Mars v Oracle court case proved anything that you can rely upon. But it does raise questions and the reactions I have seen from clients is of a general feeling of hope after learning more about this case. Remember, both Oracle and the customer are legally bound to what has been agreed in the Oracle contracts - nothing more and nothing less. The answers you seek will lie within those documents - and in some cases it might be relevant to say what is not in those documents too.
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