20080306 Thursday March 06, 2008

OpenOffice.org goes to LGPLv3

Slipstreaming Gull

You may recall that a team from Sun devoted a great deal of time to the process of drafting the GPLv3. Our engagement was not just the monitoring exercise that I suspect it was for many of the corporate participants. It was always my hope that Sun would use the license for significant software projects.

Since then, the FSF has made some welcome clarifications to the license and Sun released its first project, Openxvm, as GPLv3. The next step for us has been to review the licensing for OpenOffice.org. We consulted widely in the community and received an overwhelming response on a number of proposed modifications to the project, starting with the license. The LGPL has served OpenOffice.org well, so the move to LGPL v3 seemed very logical. LGPLv3 is actually almost identical to GPLv3, but with an additional clause limiting the scope of the requirement to release source code under the same license.

Upgrading to the LGPLv3 brings important new protections to the OpenOffice.org community, most notably through the new language concerning software patents. You may know that I am personally an opponent of software patents, and that Sun has already taken steps in this area with a patent non-assert covenant for ODF. But the most important protection for developers comes from creating mutual patent grants between developers. LGPLv3 does this.

So it's a pleasure to be able to say that Sun supports the community's input. OpenOffice.org's license will change to LGPLv3 as part of a broader set of changes intended to improve the OpenOffice.org community for everyone. Those changes also include a switch to the latest version of the standard Sun contributor agreement, with an addendum specifically tailored to the needs of the OpenOffice.org community. There's increased latitude for documentation writers to publish their work on OpenOffice.org. And in future, plugins for OpenOffice.org may host their source code directly on the community site without copyright being shared, helping collaboration within the community.

There's more news about OpenOffice.org's infrastructure as well as the project's governance - see Jim's blog for more detail as well as Louis' community announcement. For all the details, you can listen to a discussion Barton George had with Michael Bemmer, the development director of OpenOffice.org at Sun, his boss Jim Parkinson, and with Peter Brown, Executive Director of the Free Software Foundation, on this podcast: [MP3]-[Ogg].

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[Trackback] Vía slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/03/07/1330225 me entero del cambio de licencia. Por lo visto el principal motivo es la protección contra patentes que proporciona la LGPLv3. Relacionada: meneame.net/story/las-novedades-openoffice.org-3

Posted by meneame.net on March 07, 2008 at 06:57 AM PST #

Can I see ZFS also in LGPL soon ?

Posted by Karthik on March 07, 2008 at 07:01 AM PST #

Use Notepad or Vi editor. Damn.

Posted by Luiz Rakkan on March 07, 2008 at 08:19 AM PST #

Glad to hear this! I'm all for the GPL v3.

Posted by zzzzzzooom on March 07, 2008 at 05:48 PM PST #

Great news! But I still wonder how common users of OpenOffice will be effected?

Posted by Abdel Olakara on March 08, 2008 at 02:02 AM PST #

LGPLv3 or any latter?

Posted by Andre Caldas on March 08, 2008 at 06:34 AM PST #

LGPLv3. It would not be responsible stewardship to allow a switch to a license we have not seen yet.

Posted by Simon Phipps on March 08, 2008 at 06:50 AM PST #

Thanks a million, Simon!


"If adoption continues at this rate, it make start a snowball effect since it will become more convenient to license under GPL v3 for compatibility."

Go Sun!

Posted by Roy Schestowitz on March 08, 2008 at 07:13 AM PST #

Hi All,

Hasn't SUN doesn't this before? I mean I can run Open Office.

What is the benefit here?


Phoenix, Arizona
The Valley of the Sun!

Posted by jjmacey on March 08, 2008 at 07:32 AM PST #

<blockquote>LGPLv3. It would not be responsible stewardship to allow a switch to a license we have not seen yet.</blockquote>

That is a bit silly. It is the same as saying the 3-clause BSD license is "irresponsible", since it allows "switching the license".

Also, no one would be able to "force" SUN to switch. What exactly would be the consequences? The only one I can see is that if in the case the community is unhappy with SUN for any reason, anyone would be able to make a fork. But if it is not "LGPLv3 or any later", then this "fork" would be condemned to the version SUN choses while SUN would be able to upgrade any time.

In the other way around, to me, it seems irresponsible to give SUN the power to decide alone when and if one should be allowed redistribution under new versions of the license.

So, you are actually saying that it would be irresponsible for SUN to give the community such kind of power, right? I mean, the power to take control over the development.

André Caldas.

Posted by Andre Caldas on March 08, 2008 at 10:32 AM PST #

Andre: Not at all. We picked LGPL v2 in 2000 after careful consideration of the nature of the license. We have now upgraded to LGPL v3 after further careful thought, including consideration and clarification by FSF of clauses that some community members feared would be harmful to them.

Too many people depend on OpenOffice.org to risk the possibility that, for whatever reason, a future version of the license might have terms that will split or otherwise harm the community. By opting for LGPLv3 only, we're not saying we'll not consider future versions (obviously we will). We'll just take things slowly and carefully when they are published.

Posted by Simon Phipps on March 08, 2008 at 11:13 AM PST #

Just one thing I do not understand. Does the whole code belong to SUN? How is SUN able to relicense it under another license? I believe you need authorization from every author.

Posted by Andre Caldas on March 08, 2008 at 02:01 PM PST #

Re: Andre Caldas, as I understand it the community contributor agreement assigns copyright to Sun which allows this. This is a great example of how community contributor agreements (when the stewards are trusted) allow quick and necessary changes to licensing: in this case to block any patent traps in contributions.

My guess is that this might be about reducing the fracturing/forking of the OpenOffice.org codebase that Novell have been doing by not agreeing to the community agreement. Of course the LGPLv3 still allows forking but now they can't contribute code affected by their patents in order to catch Sun or demand licensing costs from Sun's customers (or any OpenOffice.org customer). As there's less business opportunity in this they may reduce their forking efforts.

Posted by Matthew Holloway on March 08, 2008 at 02:23 PM PST #

I think it is too much control. There are benefits of course, as there are benefits in any kind of "lack of freedom". The benefit being the "lack of freedom" itself, read backwards... "It's good because no one will be able to fork."

Well, forking is not a good thing, in general, but certainly BEING ABLE to fork is a very good thing. It is a shame that any fork would be condemned to freeze the license at "LGPLv3" (or GPLv3!).

Matthew, is what you call "community agreement" the "standard Sun contributor agreement, with an addendum specifically tailored to the needs of the OpenOffice.org community"? Please, it is not a "community agreement"! As I see, it has two effects:


2. (actually, a side-effect of 1.) Gives SUN the power to update the license.

Number 2 might be a good thing if SUN is concerned about us. And, by "us", I do not mean just the companies involved, whose interests are hidden behind the "community interests".

I'd like to suggest a mechanism authors would be able to declare, maybe in the source code, that that particular piece is "LGPLv3 or any later". I think that kind of happens in the Linux Kernel.

André Caldas.

Posted by Andre Caldas on March 09, 2008 at 06:19 AM PDT #

> I think it is too much control.
> It is a shame that any fork would be condemned to freeze the license at "LGPLv3" (or GPLv3!).

This is by no means different from Linus Torvalds' decision to license Linux under GPLv2 only. Do you think that was a shame too?

Posted by Onan the Barbarian on March 10, 2008 at 04:20 AM PDT #


Yes, of course I think it is a shame. SUN's approach is much better, the only flaw being that SUN's got to decide. As I said, it is too much control. In the case of linux, this caused trouble to everybody. If you want to include linux code on some GPLv3 project, you can't. For that reasons some developers state in the header of their source that the particular file is under "GPLv2 or any later". Now do you have any arguments opposing "any later"? Of course, besides the fact that it is dangerous. Leaving at SUN's hand it is not dangerous? Of course, for SUN it isn't!

Think of the side effects:
* Projects borrowing code from OO will be condemned to LGPLv3. While OO would be able to adapt any time. (if SUN wishes so)

* What would happen if SUN decided to go back and release new versions under some http://www.opensource.org/licenses/opengroup.php

But, my problem with it, is that SUN doesn't really believe the concept they are selling. They say: http://www.sun.com/software/opensource/contributor_agreement.jsp
Q: Why do you have a Contributor Agreement?
A: [...]
Most importantly from Sun's perspective, it allows the original donor of the code base (Sun, for Sun-sponsored projects), the ability to offer commercial, binary distributions of the project. Without this ability, it would not be possible for Sun to open its technologies, nor feasible to continue to invest in them as a business.

So, how does SUN expect for example, that Novell or IBM will "donate" any code if they don't get to have this "special ability"? Oh... I forgot, SUN's contribution is much bigger. So they deserve this special ability. (naive sense of justice, not good for a comunity)

Anyway, my suggestion is that you find out a way so that every developer is able to explicitly state that his part is "any later". It would be nice if this information was easy to process.

André Caldas.
PS: I didn't find any "community discussion" on the change. Where is it?

Posted by Andre Caldas on March 10, 2008 at 06:38 AM PDT #

[Trackback] un er meget glad for open source, og har i den seneste tid haft en gruppe af folk til at arbejde på...

Posted by newz.dk on March 11, 2008 at 11:05 PM PDT #

[Trackback] un er meget glad for open source, og har i den seneste tid haft en gruppe af folk til at arbejde på...

Posted by newz.dk on March 11, 2008 at 11:10 PM PDT #

[Trackback] New License and Contributor Agreement Summary The license for code is changing from the early LGPL v 2.1 to 3.0 effective the Beta of OpenOffice.org 3.0. (The actual date of this beta has not been finalized.) The Joint Copyright Assignment form (J...

Posted by freelabs @ sbarrax.it on March 14, 2008 at 01:18 AM PDT #

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