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127 million Oracle shares vote for open source at annual shareholders meeting

Oracle's shareholders rejected a resolution that the company more actively consider open source. But what's surprising is how many voted for it.

While seemingly a lot, 127 million shares doesn't add up to much in Oracle's world. 127,717,018 shares only account for 3.58% of Oracle's total share count. Last week ~96.5% of Oracle shareholders voted to reject a resolution that would have forced Oracle to consider the social and environmental impact of using open source. No big surprise there.

But what is very interesting is how much support the resolution garnered, despite not having much visibility and certainly no support from the company itself. (Let's just say that Larry Ellison's 20%+ ownership voted elsewhere.)

Jonas Kron, the Portland, Oregon-based attorney behind the resolution, had this to say:

In the end, we received the support of 127,717,018 shares. That is 3.58% of the vote and approximately $2.8 billion in assets. As I've mentioned before, taking into account Larry Ellison's ownership that percentage can be viewed a bit differently. That number goes up to 4.99% if you remove his approximately 1 billion shares from the calculation. [This is, as Jonas noted to me, a back-of-the-napkin type of calculation, and not one to be taken too literally.]

While 3.58% may not seem like a significant number, it is a very respectable vote for a first year issue that nobody ever heard of and with no advocacy budget. These are the kinds of votes climate changeproposals received years ago and now they pull in up to 30%. That is not to say that FLOSS is the same kind of issue as global warming, but it gives you an idea of how support often starts off in the single digits. It is also significant that we broke the 3% threshold, because under SEC rules we are now entitled to bring the proposal forward to the 2008 AGM if we wish.

I agree. I would have thought the number of shares voting for the proposal would have been in the tens or hundreds, not in hundred million range. So, it's a good start.

Where do we go from here? Will other companies be made to consider open source at the shareholder level? I'm not sure that they will need to. Given the global groundswell of enterprise (i.e., customer) support for open source, it's just a matter of time before proprietary software companies are forced to adopt open-source policies out of sheer self-preservation.