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Sun makes licensing peace offering to OpenOffice.org

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Sun yesterday unveiled licensing relaxations designed to placate critics and boost contributions to OpenOffice.org, the open source office suite project. Sun, no stranger to abuse from the open source community over its licensing terms and conditions, has come under fire because contributors to OpenOffice.org had to sign an agreement giving Sun rights to their work.

But now Sun's playing friendly. The new Joint Copyright Agreement (JCA) and Public Documentation License (PDL) change this in two ways. The JCA covers source code and related material, and is an assignment rather than a licence, allowing developers to share copyright ownership with Sun when they contribute code. The developer keeps ownership, but all source code is licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) and the Sun Industry Standards Source License (SISSL).

The PDL covers documents and files, and allows documents to be modified, with all contributors being credited.

The moves should go some way towards muting criticism from the OpenOffice.org community that Sun was treating members as free labour and nothing else, and taking them at face value, Sun seems to be trying to demonstrate that it does want the legal right to use the contributions, but is no longer demanding total control. It is prepared to share.

The new deal has been welcomed by critics of Sun's previous stance. One, senior OpenOffice.org member Martijn Dekkers, described the JCA as "exactly what the volunteer community has asked for and shows a significant commitment from Sun Microsystems to the volunteer community." ®

The license and agreements are online here:
Sun's new Public Documentation License
The new Joint Copyright Agreement
Further information about the new licensing

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