FSFE Newsletter - February 2014

Hugo Roy hugo at fsfe.org
Mon Feb 10 12:52:11 UTC 2014

+ 2014-02-07 Fri 16:05, Johannes Zarl <jzarl at fsfe.org>:

> On Friday 07 February 2014 15:17:39 Carsten Agger wrote:
> > > The recommendation seems to imply that people who prefer or don't
> > > object to non-viral free software licenses don't value software
> > > freedom.
> > 
> > It does not, I think.
> The original blog post[1] by Matthew Garret does not imply this. Yet, the last 
> sentence of the summary does:
> >> If you value software freedom, FSFE recommends you not to sign agreements
> >> which make it possible to distribute your code under non-free licenses.

No it does not, unless you think that FSFE is here talking about
"agreements" that also include software licenses. But that's
actually wrong because you don't "sign" a software license. So,
really, that sentence does *not* imply that FSFE says people who
use liberal licenses like BSD do not value software freedom.

In case you misread the summary, which I think is good and does
not imply what you think it does, let me re-state this clearly:

FSFE does not say that non-protective licenses are not valuable
for software freedom; nowhere.

> I think the example of Qt (also in the blog post's comments) shows the 
> subtleties of the whole thing and helps to illustrate the point I'm trying to 
> make:
> - The CLA for the Qt project requires you to allow co-licensing the source 
> under a proprietary license.
> - The owner of Qt may make the entire Qt project proprietary by first 
> releasing it under a BSD license.

You see, the problem with your example is that it's actually

In case 2, what is “the owner of QT”? You say BSD. So what
you really want to say is: the licensee (the person who *receives*
the software under the BSD license) can make the entire QT project
proprietary, because the license is liberal about this.

But that's actually a *totally different* position than if you are
the "owner" of QT, meaning, you are the one in control of who can
do what.

These are two entirely different situations, and as been reported
before: a BSD license and a CLA are two completely different legal
means towards achieving two very different outcomes.

FSFE is criticising the second, not the first; and AFAICS from
Garret's blog quotations, this is also the point of concern there,
not the GPL.

> I think it's totally ok for the FSFE to make a recommendation against 
> contributing to the Qt project -- after all the foundation is trying to fight 
> the status quo.
> However, implying that anyone contributing to Qt does not value software 
> freedom seems like a comical statement at best.

Depends on what "to QT" means. To QT the free software project or
to QT the company releasing proprietary software?

I think it's fair to assume that contributing to proprietary
software (and *not* to free software) is not valuable to software

Any way: judging by the misunderstanding of the complex legal
matter, I suppose an update to the newsletter with a footnote
explaining that FSFE did *not* imply that liberal licenses are not
valuable; so that even people who don't have a clue about the
difference between copyright licensing and assignments cannot

Hugo Roy, Free Software Foundation Europe, <www.fsfe.org>  
Deputy Coordinator, FSFE Legal Team, <www.fsfe.org/legal>  
Coordinator, FSFE French Team, <www.fsfe.org/fr>  
Support Free Software, sign up! <https://fsfe.org/support>
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