[lpi-discuss] Re: BS' final comments on 'spam filters' -- Short version ...

Anselm Lingnau anselm.lingnau at linupfront.de
Wed Dec 13 11:55:07 EST 2006

Bryan J. Smith wrote:

> Every single argument, _every_ one, I've seen made against Novell on
> OpenOffice.org is _nothing_ we do _not_ already have an alleged "problem
> with" because Sun already owns and releases OpenOffice.org with
> countless alleged Microsoft IP, which Sun has had a broad-cross license
> with Microsoft for almost 3 _years_.

Sigh. Read the LGPL, already. Whether *Sun* has a cross-license with Microsoft 
is irrelevant. If a patent license from Microsoft is required to distribute 
OpenOffice.org, and Microsoft does not extend that patent license to *anyone* 
who receives OO.o under the LGPL, then nobody *including* Sun gets to 
distribute OpenOffice.org *under the LGPL*. Sun is the copyright owner and 
may make other arrangements (compare StarOffice, which is to a large extent 
the same code base but licensed traditionally), but the LGPL says in section 
11 that if a separate patent license must be entered into before an LGPL'ed 
software package can be distributed then it cannot be distributed under the 
LGPL at all.

The fact that Sun *does* distribute OO.o under the LGPL, and that countless 
Linux distributors pick it up and redistribute it, only goes to show that, 
provided that there actually *is* Microsoft IP in OO.o (which may or may not 
be the case), so far Microsoft has not seen fit to crack down on this, for 
whatever reason. Whether Sun or for that matter Novell have a patent license 
from Microsoft or not is immaterial to this because the LGPL guarantees that 
Joe Blow's Software Emporium, too, can make and sell thousands of OO.o 
CD-ROMs if they're so inclined. Heck, even *I* get to redistribute OO.o under 
the LGPL, and I don't have a patent license from Microsoft for sure.

This state of affairs sends the message to Microsoft (or anyone else) that »If 
OO.o infringes your patents, prove it -- and then come and get us if you 
can«. This is rather different from »Please, Microsoft, don't sue our 
customers over any patents of yours that OO.o may or may not infringe, not 
right now, anyway, and here's $$$ for your trouble«, which is what Novell's 
deal with Microsoft says (later backpedalling notwithstanding).

> And I _prime_ example of that that is this OpenOffice.org fork utter
> non-sense.

The »Novell forks OO.o« meme goes back to Pamela Jones, who, as is painfully 
obvious to those who follow Groklaw, has her own axe to grind (and tediously 
so). I don't think anybody here has actually claimed this. I certainly don't.

You're absolutely right that if Novell pays a small army of software engineers 
to come up with an OpenXML import/export filter for OpenOffice.org (when even 
Microsoft's Mac folks have turned away in horror from doing the same for 
Microsoft Office on the Mac, whose internals are much closer to those of 
Microsoft Office for Windows than OO.o's are) and publishes the thing under 
the LGPL, separately from OO.o itself or bundled with it, there's no 
immediate problem (other than the patent-license business explained above, 
which everybody can, in principle, ignore as long as no patents are actually 
asserted). This is not a fork. It is also great for »interoperability« -- it 
ensures that everyone who wants can keep using Microsoft Office, which they 
should of course be free to do, and which many will undoubtedly do out of 
sheer indolence, and that any problems moving documents from Microsoft Office 
to OpenOffice.org and back (of which I can guarantee you even now there will 
be gazillions) will be stupid OpenOffice.org's fault.

However, what we all should REALLY do is tell Microsoft loudly and clearly 
that they can take their OpenXML and stick it where the sun doesn't shine. We 
already *have* an XML-based document format that does what OpenXML does, only 
literally lightyears better, which does not belong to a single vendor, for 
which multiple independent implementations exist, which is based on various 
other accepted and proven standards, and which itself is an ISO standard to 
boot. We do not need a 6000-page document that describes an XML-based format 
for Microsoft Office memory dumps. On this level, Novell's groveling does 
nothing except lend credence to the concept that the agony which is DOC & co. 
somehow needs to be prolonged into the XML age. We will all have so much more 
work to do in order to convince people that compared to the difference 
between XML à la ODF and XML à la OpenXML the Grand Canyon looks like a small 
depression in the ground -- after all, XML is XML, isn't it? Thank you very 
much, Novell.


(This is my personal opinion and not that of Linup Front GmbH.)
Anselm Lingnau ... Linup Front GmbH ... Linux-, Open-Source- & Netz-Schulungen
Linup Front GmbH, Postfach 100121, 64201 Darmstadt, Germany
anselm.lingnau at linupfront.de, +49(0)6151-9067-103, Fax -299, www.linupfront.de

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