Sun is going to move OpenOffice from the LGPL 2.1 license to the LGPL 3 when the 3.0 rev of the software hits beta, a date that has not been finalized although OpenOffice 3.0 is supposed to be on track for release in September.
Sun says the tightened-up license is “more flexible and protective,” particularly against software patents, evidently a reference to Microsoft’s claim that open source programs tread on its IP.
Immediately an updated, copyright-sharing, patent-licensing Sun Contributor Agreement (SCA) 1.5 is being substituted for the older Joint Copyright Assignment (JCA).
Contributions to any packaging of OpenOffice require a signed non-negotiable SCA sent to Sun. Contributions from companies need a SCA signed by an officer of the company. There’s a special SCA for employees of the US government.
The requirement, which asserts that the contribution is original work, that you’re legally entitled to grant Sun rights and promises the contribution will remain FOSS in perpetuity, holds true for documentation, bug fixes, design specs and graphics, even little bitty ones.
It is required of all Sun-sponsored open source projects but developers only have to execute one, not multiple ones. It’s meant to let Sun act on the community’s behalf in case of legal challenge, let sun share code with other open source projects, and, it says, license source code to parties that aren’t prepared to work with an open source license.
The Lesser GPL permits libraries to be used in proprietary programs without tainting the program with open source restrictions.