Apache Disavows Team OpenOffice.org e.V.

Apache Software Foundation response raises questions on non-profit's role

Thursday's story about the future of OpenOffice.org garnered an interesting response from the Apache Software Foundation that, coupled with a broader statement on the ASF blog, disavows any notion of trouble within the OpenOffice.org project.

If indeed Apache OpenOffice.org project is doing fine, then questions must now be raised about the role of Team OpenOffice.org e.V., the group that publicly called for funds for the office suite project last week, using statements such as "OpenOffice.org can't be allowed to die!"

The first (and really only) question: for whom was Team OpenOffice.org e.V. raising money? Apache OpenOffice.org, or perhaps their own coffers?

Shane Curcuru, Apache OpenOffice.org podling mentor, took the time to respond directly to Thursday's story, and clarified a few things. Number one, the nomenclature for OpenOffice.org: the project should now, as part of the ASF, be called Apache OpenOffice.org.

Curcuru also emphasized the health of the Apache OpenOffice.org project:

"The Apache OpenOffice Podling Project Management Committee (PPMC) is the group now responsible for the bulk of the existing OpenOffice.org code, as well as the associated brand and trademarks. This podling is undergoing incubation; that is a process designed to show that the PPMC as a whole community is healthy, and is able to independently manage the project following The Apache Way. The podling is very active, already has builds running on multiple platforms, and most definitely intends to create new, great releases of Apache OpenOffice."

For those monitoring the health of OpenOffice.org, that's good news. But here's the statement from Curcuru that sharply contrasted with the picture painted by Team OpenOffice.org e.V.:

"Please note that the statement 'Team OpenOffice.org e.V., the German non-profit responsible for managing the fundraising for the OpenOffice.org project' is incorrect. Team OpenOffice.org e.V. does not have any specific relationship with the Apache Software Foundation. Likewise... Apache projects may not perform fundraising independently, nor does the ASF work with any outside organizations when fundraising; all fundraising at the ASF is handled by our central fundraising team and is explicitly on behalf of all Apache projects."

For the record, I based my statement on information from the Monetary Donations page on the OpenOffice.org site, which read (as of Oct. 17):

"You can make a donation to our primary treasury, Team OpenOffice.org, e.V. via PayPal or credit card or use bank transfer."

[Author's Note: Following the initial posting of this blog entry, it appears the Apache Software Foundation changed the Monetary Donations page to match current Apache policies. The cached page that demonstrates the prior connection between Team OpenOffice.org e.V. and OpenOffice.org is still available.]

Based on Curcuru's statements, however, it seems that while Team OpenOffice.org may have once been connected to the formerly separate OpenOffice.org project, the non-profit organization currently has no standing with Apache OpenOffice.org. Further, when the general ASF statement said:

"More recently, destructive statements have been published by both members of the greater FOSS community and former contributors to the original OpenOffice.org product, suggesting that the project has failed during the 18 weeks since its acceptance into the Apache Incubator."

It appears that the "former contributors of the original OpenOffice.org product" Curcuru was referring to is in fact Team OpenOffice.org e.V.

This disavowal is a sharp rebuke for Team OpenOffice.org e.V., since it flatly denies the organization any official connection to the Apache OpenOffice.org project.

Which immediately begs the question: for whom is Team OpenOffice.org e.V. raising money? Since Curcuru is representing both the Apache OpenOffice.org podling and the broader ASF, it seems unlikely he would be mistaken in such a matter.

Looking again at the October 11 press release from Team OpenOffice.org e.V. with this new information in hand, the main thrust of the press release is still confusing: is the non-profit raising money for OpenOffice.org or Team OpenOffice.org e.V. It is noteworthy that at no time in the press release does Team OpenOffice.org e.V. mentions the ASF or the Apache OpenOffice.org project, and at times does seem to hint that it will be the German non-profit that gets the funds, not the Apache OpenOffice.org project. For example:

"In order for OpenOffice.org to continue to be professionally developed, Team OpenOffice.org will have to rely on donations."

I have put this question to Team OpenOffice.org e.V. today, and as of press time have not gotten a response. If they choose to respond, I will immediately update this story.

If Team OpenOffice.org is acting on its own behalf, and not that of Apache OpenOffice.org, then this seems to be at best a gross miscommunication of intent. If Team OpenOffice.org is trying to raise money for teams of independent developers who want to work on the Apache OpenOffice.org project, then they need to coordinate their efforts with the ASF, and not appear to represent themselves as "the" OpenOffice.org project.

If they don't comply, I do not imagine it will be long will before the ASF, the current holder of copyright and trademark for OpenOffice.org, reacts to Team OpenOffice.org's use of the OpenOffice.org trademark and pulls the rights to the name altogether.

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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