LibreOffice's foundation just weeks away

The Document Foundation one step closer to official status

The Document Foundation announced today that it will officially be established as a German Stiftung (foundation) entity and based in Berlin, marking a key step in its formation as a legal entity.

As of today, The Document Foundation (TDF) will be established as a foundation, founded by the pre-existing Freies Office Deutschland e.V. It's not quite a done deal, but all that's left is the signing of the final incorporation papers, according to TDF spokesperson Italo Vignoli.

This signing should take place in the next couple of weeks, Vignoli explained in an interview this morning.

This is pretty much the end of a months-long process that's required in Germany whenever a non-profit is started. As part of the process, the local government--in this case, Berlin's--has been reviewing TDF's financial and governance plans for several months, before giving their approval this past month.

In Germany, Vignoli explained, you can't just go to a lawyer and set up a foundation, as you could in the U.S. "You have the approval of the local government, which is then going to check periodically that directors are behaving properly." There are advantages of this approach, however.

"Foundations in Europe are tougher to establish than in the U.S., but once established are very difficult to break," Vignoli explained.

Another key difference if setting up foundations in Europe: you need to have another existing foundation actually found the new organization. In this case, Freies Office Deutschland e.V., formerly Deutschland e.V., has acted as the interim legal entity.

"We congratulate the community for having achieved this key step, and are proud of having played a key role in setting up The Document Foundation. Our association is looking forward to working closely with the new entity and acting as a gateway between TDF and private as well as enterprise users", Thomas Krumbein, Chairman of the Board at Freies Office Deutschland e.V., said in a press release.

Once the founded "child" organization is fully autonomous, there is no legal connection to the parent, other than the usual goodwill and support that would normally flow between two like-minded organizations.

The establishment of TDF as a legal entity marks a crowning moment in this brief history of their existence, which was first announced in September 2010. A fundraising drive was launched almost exactly a year ago to raise the €50,000 needed to pay the fees to incorporate as a Stiftung and the money was raised in fairly short order through community donations.

The decision was made to incorporate in Germany, rather than the US as a 503b(3) or (6) non-profit foundation, was made because the Brazilians within the LibreOffice community were not thrilled with the prospect of having LibreOffice in US jurisdiction, according to Novell's Michael Meeks, with whom I spoke with back in January 2011.

TDF is the primary sponsor and supporter of LibreOffice, the fork of that was first released on the same day the formation of TDF was announced. The fork was a direct response to Oracle's ongoing reluctance to reveal what it had in mind for, or release the project to more community-oriented governance.

Seven months later, Oracle announced it would donate the code to the Apache Software Foundation, where development now continues under the auspices of the incubator-status Apache OpenOffice project.

Today's announcement is a pretty big deal, if only because it cements The Document Foundation's place as a fixture within the open source community and lends more stability to the ongoing LibreOffice project.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Open for Discussion blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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