Software Freedom Law Center Clears OpenDocument Format for Free Software Use

File Format Software Can Be Used With Impunity

July 12, 2006

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), provider of pro-bono legal services to protect and advance Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), today released an opinion assuring developers that they can legally implement OpenDocument Format (ODF) in free and open source software. OpenDocument Format is a free file format for saving and exchanging editable documents, spreadsheets, databases and presentations.

In the current climate of uncertainty surrounding patents, FOSS developers have been reluctant to implement programs if compatibility with GPL is in question. These concerns about ODF recently prompted a number of the Law Center’s clients to seek a legal opinion before implementing the format in free and open source programs. The Center researched the issue and has now published an opinion assuring developers that there are no legal barriers to using ODF.

“A number of our clients asked us to determine whether ODF is truly free of patent, copyright and trademark encumbrances. We looked into the issue, and are confident that developers can use ODF in free software,” said James Vasile, SFLC Legal Counsel. “ODF is GPL-compatible.”

OpenDocument Format is a truly open standard that can be implemented by free and proprietary software alike. It is quickly becoming the standard file format for people that want to avoid becoming dependent on any particular software vendor.

“I’m pleased that the SFLC has definitively spoken on ODF,” said Chris DiBona, Open Source Program Manager at Google, Inc. “Free software developers need to be able to use ODF without worrying about litigation or licensing fees, and it’s great to hear the SFLC say they can do just that.”

“I am excited to hear that integration of OpenDocument Format into Plone is a technical challenge, not a legal one,” said Joel Burton, Chair of the Plone Foundation, which supports development of Plone, an open source content management system. “The SFLC opinion provides a novel opportunity for our users and developers–an opportunity that would not be possible without the Law Center’s legal advice.”

The SFLC opinion is available online

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