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What Does the LGPLv3-Licensed OpenOffice.org Mean to Novell, Xandros, Linspire and Turbolinux?

Posted in Fork, GNU/Linux, Linspire, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, OpenOffice, Turbolinux, Xandros at 11:03 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Stuck in 2007?

FSF GNU GPLv3As stressed many times before, IANAL, but based on the consensus of opinions in Groklaw, the GPLv3 is bound to bite companies that sold out to Microsoft in the rear. Several of these companies knew very well what they were getting into, or maybe they just weren’t concerned. Here is a lovely old quote from the CEO of Xandros: (highlighted in red)

Under the third version of the General Public License, expected to be published in final form this month by the Free Software Foundation, all such deals that were not inked by March 28 are forbidden. As a result, it would appear that Xandros will not be allowed to distribute open source code licensed under GPLv3 because of its relationship with Microsoft. Typaldos said he’s not concerned. “If you are a businessperson, you can’t worry about every eventuality.

Priceless. To quote another old article which was discussing Microsoft’s scam at the time:

Then Microsoft offers the carrot of legal absolution. “Come with us” they say “We will protect you and your customers from our lawsharks” they promise. The poor scared sods believe them and sign a piece of paper that they think will protect themselves from the “Big Brother”. This of course makes Microsoft very happy and fits right in with their divide and conqueror plans.

GNOME CalcSam Varghese was a little more blunt when he advised Andy Typaldos to start selling potatoes rather than selling out. In any event, what does the licence upgrade of OpenOffice.org mean to he likes of Xandros?

It is a good time to raise this question because OpenOffice 3.0, which adopted the third version of the GNU GPL, has just been released as public beta. You can find some more details here.

The OpenOffice.org Community is pleased to announce that the public beta release of OpenOffice.org 3.0 is now available. This beta release is made available to allow a broad user base to test and evaluate the next major version of OpenOffice.org, but is not recommended for production use at this stage.

The LGPLv3, especially in the context of Novell’s OpenOffice.org controversial ‘fork’ for SUSE Ballnux, was discussed before in [1, 2, 3]. Can Novell carry on doing what it does? If so, at what cost?

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  1. Gopal said,

    May 8, 2008 at 12:05 am


    Michael Meeks of Novell does not seem to be concerned about the OpenOffice move to LGPLv3. See comments on his blog – http://www.gnome.org/~michael/activity.html#2008-03-06.

    I am more interested in the implications this move will have on StarOffice which shares the same codebase as OO, given that StarOffice is “protected” by the Patent Covenant agreement between Sun and MS. (see http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/709519/000119312504155723/dex10109.htm )

  2. Gopal said,

    May 8, 2008 at 12:06 am


    corrected link for Meeks

  3. AlexH said,

    May 8, 2008 at 5:39 am


    Novell’s “fork” isn’t a fork, and it’s not controversial; why do you keep raising this?

    Virtually all the distributions use the go-oo / GNOME hosted version, including the likes of Debian (http://packages.qa.debian.org/o/openoffice.org.html – see the “version control” links on the left).

    The only reason this different version exists is because of the cack-handed maintainership of OOo by Sun, who won’t accept LGPL’d licensed code without a copyright assignment so that they can produce a proprietary version.

    This site does seem to have a real pro-Sun bias even in areas where Sun is actively harming the free software community…

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 8, 2008 at 5:57 am


    I was never pro-Sun, but I’m receptive because Sun hardly attacks Free software, not in any way that’s akin to Oracle or Microsoft. Sun also gave Free software some valuable gifts, much like the BSDs.

    There’s also the other side of the story you tell. Follow the links to our previous coverage of this ‘fork’ (mind the scare quotes, which are there for a reason). Sun got a lot of flak at the time and the story was complicated for various reasons including the involvement of Novell^H^Hrosoft, which adds stuff like OOXML because it must. Microsoft paid it to harm ODF; unsurprisingly, ODF supporters like Bruce Lowry left the company, possibly for other reasons or a combination of them.

  5. AlexH said,

    May 8, 2008 at 6:21 am


    Novell isn’t adding OOXML to OpenOffice.org; it hasn’t upstreamed its changes for the XSLT filters and as far as I know it doesn’t plan to, because *Sun’s engineers are working on OOXML support*:


    This is already integrated and will be released in OpenOffice.org 3.

    Far from Novell being obligated to add OOXML support; they’ve probably spent all of a couple of weeks integrating the filters that Microsoft developed. The real work for OOXML support natively in OpenOffice.org is being done by Sun.

  6. Victor Soliz said,

    May 8, 2008 at 7:26 am


    The only reason this different version exists is because of the cack-handed maintainership of OOo by Sun, who won’t accept LGPL’d licensed code without a copyright assignment so that they can produce a proprietary version.

    Note that under rules established by Novell apologists, this argument is only valid to attack Sun regarding OOo and cannot be used on Novell regarding Mono which is a totally different subject…

    The filters Sun is working on are just importers, no worries. Besides, they happen to have done it after the ISO vote, unlike Novell and Gnome which advocated OOXML during the vote. I hope the difference is noticeable…

  7. AlexH said,

    May 8, 2008 at 7:38 am


    @Victor: No, I don’t advocate copyright assignment to Novell, for Mono or any other project. I treat the two exactly the same. At least with Mono’s class libraries, though, Novell aren’t reserving the right to make proprietary versions to themselves – unlike Sun.

    As for what Sun are working on – if you think they started this _after_ the ISO vote, you’re wrong. Look at the dates on any OOXML bug, eg.:


    And indeed they are only working on opening OOXML files. Given it can save in the binary format there isn’t much value in being able to save in OOXML until they get importing working well.

  8. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 8, 2008 at 7:37 am


    Alex, I appreciate your insightful comments, but I disagree with this last one. OOo developers at Sun have been strongly objecting vigorously to OOXML (Sun still does, boycottnnovell was even cited at the front page of openoffice.org) and to say “Sun’s engineers are working on OOXML support” is only a half truth at best. What they strive to have is something that enables OOo users who receive binary/XML spew (Office 2007 documents) to translate these and store them as ODF.

  9. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 8, 2008 at 7:41 am


    Alex, it hasn’t been news. The importers go several months back. To argue that Sun supports OOXML is like arguing that I support Windows if I sometimes need to lean over and help a colleague/friend/family member with a technical glitch in Windows.

  10. AlexH said,

    May 8, 2008 at 8:30 am


    I’m not saying it’s news, I’m not saying Sun support OOXML – I’m saying it’s not Novell who are the people adding OOXML support to OpenOffice.org.

    You keep missing the salient points I’m raising:

    * Novell’s OOo isn’t a “fork”, it’s a maintenance branch
    * Novell’s OOo is used by all the major distributions, it’s not a SUSE-only thing.
    * Novell’s integration of the OOXML filters was a hack, and will go away when Sun complete their support ( http://lists.go-oo.org/pipermail/dev-go-oo.org/2008-January/000279.html )

    We’ll soon see about Sun’s intentions for OOXML, anyway. The ‘unable to save as OOXML’ bug was raised in the issue tracker last month:


    As I said before, Sun are the ones spending time on OOXML support. Novell spent only a few days or weeks on it, not months of development time.

  11. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 8, 2008 at 9:32 am


    Novell has actively supported OOXML (in the form of translators) since almost the end of 2006. Microsoft has used that as ammunition everywhere. I say this because I saw it.

  12. AlexH said,

    May 8, 2008 at 10:03 am


    “Active support” should be judged in terms of actions, not words.

    Novell’s actions with regard to the translators is a. making them work on Linux (which was a trivial piece of code for reading Zip files, IIRC) and b. plugging them into OpenOffice.org (which already had facilities for XSLT import filters). Indeed, so deeply entrenched in the ODF-Converter project are Novell hackers that they don’t even seem to know which mailing list to subscribe to:


    It’s painfully clear that Novell are not active in the converter project, and made only the smallest effort to make them work with OpenOffice.org, and further intend to undo those efforts when the much more substantial work on *native* filters is complete for OpenOffice.org 3.

    Actions speak louder than words, and I know which of Novell and Sun have invested more in OOXML support for OpenOffice.org, by a long chalk.

  13. Dan O'Brian said,

    May 8, 2008 at 10:09 am


    Roy, that’s not what Alex H is arguing. He’s not necessarily disagreeing with you that Novell supported OOXML – he’s not making any statements regarding that subject at all.

    He’s neither agreeing nor disagreeing with that assertion.

    What he is saying is that Novell is not forcing OOXML into OOo, Sun are doing all of that themselves.

    Alex H is sticking to the facts.

  14. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 8, 2008 at 10:24 am


    The original question was: who assists(/ed) Microsoft’s pursuit for the rubber stamp? Another secondary question would be about the type/level of support by Sun.

  15. Dan O'Brian said,

    May 8, 2008 at 10:25 am


    Playing Devil’s Advocate for a second here, there is quite a difference between Novell requiring Copyright assignment for Mono and Sun requiring it for OpenOffice.org.

    Sun only contributes about 40% of the work on OOo while the other contributors put forth the remaining 60%.

    Novell puts forth about 99% of the work on Mono, while the remaining contributors put forth maybe 1%.

    Point is that Novell are doing nearly all of the work on Mono while the community (paid or not) does more work on OOo than Sun does.

    That said, I personally don’t care about having to assign copyright to either company were I to contribute to either project – it’s their projects and they need to make money too.

  16. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 8, 2008 at 10:33 am


    It would be interesting had OpenOffice.org become an integrated or semi-integrated part of GNOME, with all the corporate assignments that accompany it.

  17. Dan O'Brian said,

    May 8, 2008 at 10:41 am


    I’m not sure I follow how that would have caused any controversy?

  18. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 8, 2008 at 11:09 am


    Well, maybe that is why you defend Mono. Would it be OK for GNOME to be Mono-dependent, in your view?

  19. Nikolas Koswinkle said,

    May 8, 2008 at 12:58 pm


    Boy, NOBODY, has been defending Mono as of yet, in this discussion.

    Note: comment has been flagged for arriving from a possible incarnation of known (eet), pseudonymous, forever-nymshifting, abusive Internet troll that posts from open proxies and relays around the world.

  20. Rui Miguel Silva Seabra said,

    May 8, 2008 at 1:33 pm


    Novell’s OOo is used by all the major distributions, it’s not a SUSE-only thing.

    This, at least, is quite not true.

  21. Nikolas Koswinkle said,

    May 9, 2008 at 2:04 am


    Well, as even the guy who insists on ‘flagging’ all my comments with this ridiculous shit will have to agree, the use of the Novell-version by Ubuntu alone probably accounts for about 50% of all Linux users.

    Note: comment has been flagged for arriving from a possible incarnation of known (eet), pseudonymous, forever-nymshifting, abusive Internet troll that posts from open proxies and relays around the world.

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