Since Sun Microsystems' 10k filings, I have been asked many times by press and
pundits to clarify what this agreement means for OpenOffice.org. There is much misunderstanding and confusion among the Free Software and Open Source communities as to how this affects OpenOffice.org. I have, with the help of community volunteers Daniel Carrera and Colin Chalres, developed
this FAQ as an aid to the FS/OSS community, to better understand the
situation. I hope that this will ease the fears of the FS/OSS community.
Q1: What is OpenOffice.org?
OpenOffice.org is both a
product and a
community. The OpenOffice.org product is a complete office suite that uses open, future-proof XML formats. The OpenOffice.org community has, as our mission, to create the leading office suite in the world, that will:
- Be Free Software/Open Source.
- Run on all major platforms.
- Provide open APIs and a open XML-based file format.
Q2: What is OOo's license?
Q3: What is the JCA and why?
Under the Joint Copyright Assignment (
JCA), both Sun and the contributor retain full rights to the
copyrighted work. The purpose of the JCA is so that Sun, can defend
against copyright lawsuits.
In copyright law, if you want to bring up litigation on something, you
have to get every copyright owner to join in the litigation process. In
the case of OOo, or any FS/OSS project, there are are many contributors
from distant locations. If each one is the sole owner, then every person
that contributed even the smallest amount of code would have to show up to
do any litigation. Anywhere in the world.
By sharing copyright with them, you allow Sun as an entity to take care
of any potential legal problems. This is the same reason why Novell and
the Free Software Foundation has the same requirement.
Q4: Can Sun ever take away the code?
The simple answer to this is NO. Once code is released under the
LGPL, it can never be taken away. Once LGPL, always LGPL. Sun has
no plans to return to a closed development model. But if they did,
they still could never take away the code and the community's
contributions to it.
Q5: Is Sun going to stop OOo development?
Now, if they did stop development, OOo would
still continue thanks to the contributions from Novell, Red
Hat, and the open source community, albeit more slowly.
Q6: So, OOo has no liability coverage now?
Open source code, as well as propietary code, is generally
distributed without warranty and liability coverage. No change
Q7: Am I at greater risk of litigation now?
No. The agreement does not make it easier for MS to sue you.
Sun will not start helping MS sue people.
We don't know if MS is planning to sue OOo users. We don't
control MS. But the risk is not greater than with any other project.
Q8: Why does the filing not cover OOo?
Sun neither owns nor controls OpenOffice.org. It is natural
that a Sun-MS no-sue agreement does not cover that which Sun
Q9: Does MS hold any patents covering OOo?
In today's world, it's hard to sneeze near an abacus without
infringing on someone's patent. Having said that, we are not aware
of any patents (whether MS or otherwise) that are infringed by OOo.
If such is found, we may be able to work around it, since patents
do not cover functionality.
In other words, OpenOffice.org's situation is not any different
from that of any open source project.
If you are concerned about software patents, you can join the
Electronic Frontier Foundation's patent busting
Ryan Singer has interned for Sun Microsystems and the Georgia Technology Authority. He is currently the marketing representative for OpenOffice.org in the United States.