Oracle gives OpenOffice to Apache

Oracle has given the OpenOffice office suite to Apache, with IBM's blessing. The Document Foundation, creators of the LibreOffice, an OpenOffice fork, can live with this move.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

As I reported on May 31st, 2011, Oracle has, with IBM's encouragement, given the open-source OpenOffice office suite to The Apache Software Foundation (ASF).

In a statement issued this morning, June 1st, Oracle's Luke Kowalski, VP of Oracle Corporate Architecture Group, stated that the company was going to "contribute the OpenOffice.org code to The Apache Software Foundation's Incubator. The company then claims that Oracle is doing this to "demonstrate its commitment to the developer and open source communities. [By] Donating OpenOffice.org to Apache gives this popular consumer software a mature, open, and well established infrastructure to continue well into the future. The Apache Software Foundation's model makes it possible for commercial and individual volunteer contributors to collaborate on open source product development."

IBM's Kevin Cavanaugh, VP of Collaboration Solutions., which lobbied for Oracle to spin OpenOffice off after it became clear that Oracle wasn't going to put much, if any, resources into OpenOffice, said in a statement, "IBM welcomes Oracle's contribution of OpenOffice software to the Apache Software Foundation. We look forward to engaging with other community members to advance the technology beginning with our strong support of the incubation process for OpenOffice at Apache."

As well IBM should. IBM needs OpenOffice to move forward for the sake of its OpenOffice-based Lotus Symphony office suite.

On the Apache side, Jim Jagielski, president of the Apache Software Foundation, and proposed mentor for Apache OpenOffice, said, "We welcome highly-focused, emerging projects from individual contributors, as well as those with robust developer communities, global user bases, and strong corporate backing."

At first, Apache tells me, OpenOffice will be an "incubating project" or "podling." According to Jagielski, "Podlings that demonstrate that their community and products have been well-governed under the ASF's consensus-driven process, release all code under the Apache License v2.0 , and fulfill the responsibilities of an Incubating project move one step closer to graduation to a TLP. Upon a Project's maturation to a Top-Level Projects (TLP), a Project Management Committee (PMC) is formed to guide its day-to-day operations, including community development and product releases."

That's licensing part could be be a bit of a problem. OpenOffice is currently licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) 3.0. It's not entirely compatible with the Apache License 2.0.

Jagielski tells me though that there shouldn't be any intellectual property (IP) problems. "Oracle is using our standard Software Grant for the code donation. All code copyrighted by Oracle is now relicensed under AL2.0. The ASF has never required copyright assignment." Thus, "The re-licensing of all Oracle OO.org code is pretty much done."

He continued, "As you may know, Oracle only has copyright on OpenOffice.org and not OpenOffice itself, so we are looking at whether the ASF owning the trademark even makes sense." In any case, "Oracle has assigned the trademark 'and any associated goodwill' to the ASF."

But what about The Document Foundation (TDF), which forked OpenOffice to speed up OpenOffice development, to create LibreOffice?

In a statement, Italio Vignoli, a member of the Document Foundation's steering committee, told me, from a statement that will be issued publicly shortly, that "By donating OpenOffice.org (OOo) assets to the Apache Foundation, Oracle is missing the opportunity to re-unite the OOo community governance. This is unfortunate, since the differences between the Apache License and the LGPLv3+/MPL do not allow to include in OOo the last eight months of rich innovation from LibreOffice's volunteers and contributors. In addition, OOo is also requiring many pieces of code to function that are not compatible with Apache's licensing philosophy, and will have to be dropped or rewritten."

Nevertheless, The Document Foundation is willing to talk with the Apache Foundation in order to offer to corporate and individual users worldwide the best free office suite for enterprise and personal productivity."

Vignoli added, "On the bright side, an advantage of this arrangement is the potential for future-proof licensing. The Apache License is compatible with both the LGPLv3+ and MPL (Mozilla Public License) licenses, allowing TDF future flexibility to move the entire codebase, to MPLv2 or future LGPL license versions. The Document Foundation believes that commercially-friendly, copy-left licensing provides the best path to constructive participation in, and growth of the project."

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