OpenOffice – splits and pirouettes

The splits and controversies around LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org have highlighted a number of issues concerning the licensing and corporate governance of open source projects and communities.

Successful free and open source software projects such as Linux, Apache or Samba have little or no ambivalence concerning the licensing and ownership of the code or the independence of the developers. Large companies contribute to the code, and have much to gain from doing so, but the status of the developers and their relationship to the code and the governance of the project is clear and unambiguous – even though the intent and effect of the licence may vary from project to project.

OpenOffice.org never had this luxury. The project was micro-managed in-house by the original developers of StarOffice, despite the early promise of an independent non-profit foundation to run the project. The code was released under a copyleft licence but copyright was assigned to Sun, who relicensed the code to IBM under terms that have never been disclosed. A confused inheritance was further complicated by the takeover of Sun by Oracle, who had no interest in the project or the community.

Read more at H-online

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