FSFE Newsletter - February 2014

Johannes Zarl jzarl at fsfe.org
Tue Feb 11 00:03:27 UTC 2014

Dear Hugo,

On Tuesday 11 February 2014 00:05:02 Hugo Roy wrote:
> It's not really helpful if you don't try to read replies to your
> post and focus on details like how the QT company is named (Diga
> or whatever, naming it the QT company is, I believe, enough to
> understand for anyone).

I did read your reply to my first email. I also replied to it step-by-step up 
to the point where you assumptions as to what I had meant in my first mail and 
what I had actually written in my first mail deviated so far as to where there 
was no common ground anymore.

I did mention that part about Qt not being a company, but being owned by Digia 
because of the previous statement of you citing "BSD" as the "owner" of the Qt 

> > Person A wants to contribute to the Qt project, and signs the CLA that
> > allows Digia to have a dual-licensing with both GPL and their proprietary
> > license. Therefore the CLA makes it possible to distribute the code under
> > non-free licenses. Therefore person A can not value software freedom.
> If person A values software freedom, he or she should contribute to
> QT, the software project (under the free software license: GPL or
> BSD whatever) but should not contribute to a scheme whereby the
> contribution would be proprietary software (or put somebody in a
> position to make that decision).

Ok, then the implication in that last sentence of the summary seems to have 
been deliberate in its wording. Thanks for the info.

> > > > - 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
> > > wrong.
> > 
> > How so?
> I explained it to you in my former email.
> To put it bluntly, your sentence is nonsense.

It is a one-sentence summary of the agreement between KDE and the 
owner/Digia/copyright holder/"Qt"/whatever.
It is nonsense if one redefines the meaning of owner and ignores the 
references to the blog post comments and has been oblivious to the way KDE and 
"Qt" are working together.

> Let me take it bit by bit.
>     The owner of QT:
> As I said earlier, it's not clear what you mean here. If I follow
> common understanding, the "owner" would be the copyright holder of
> QT software.

What other than common understanding should I have followed in communication? 
Yes, as I have written before, I do mean Digia, which is the copyright holder.

>     … may make the entire QT project proprietary by first
>     releasing it under a BSD license
> This sentence does not make sense. The copyright holder of QT has,
> under copyright law, all the right to release QT as proprietary
> software. There's no need to license to BSD first, or to anything.

That's why there has been an additional agreement between the "KDE Free Qt 
Foundation" and Trolltech (and later on Nokia, and now Digia) that added this 
requirement. I have written that before, but you seem to have skipped it. If 
you still don't want to go to the comments section on the linked blog entry, 
here's a writeup of that agreement:


> As I wrote, what you really wanted to say is not "owner" but
> "licensee", otherwise there's no point in mentioning the BSD
> license in your sentence.

No, the licensees of the Qt library (and I guess other products under the Qt 
label) can only license Qt according to the GPL (or the proprietary license 
should they want to do that).

> The owner and the licensee are in two very different positions.

Well, yes.

> This is why software copyright licenses are an entirely different
> beast than software copyright assignments.

Also, yes.

> > > I think it's fair to assume that contributing to proprietary
> > > software (and *not* to free software) is not valuable to software
> > > freedom.
> > 
> > Well, that stands to question here. Qt is arguably both proprietary *and*
> > free software. Your sentence is certainly true for the general case, but
> > Qt is a corner case. Does the (additional) contribution to proprietary
> > software *weaken* the value of the contribution to the free software?
> My personal opinion here is that a business model built around
> making money with proprietary software, and contributing to that
> business model, is not really valuable to software freedom indeed.

I can live with that. I'm not yet sure about how I'd answer the question 
myself, though.


P.S.: I will refrain to posting another reply to this thread. I *do* think 
that my mails were not totally incomprehensible or devoid of logic. My lack of 
further participation shall not mean that I do not read or value your reply 
should you write one.
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