Re: KDE not in Debian?

Subject: Re: KDE not in Debian?
From: Craig Sanders (
Date: Fri Jan 21 2000 - 03:24:36 CET

On Thu, Jan 20, 2000 at 02:53:01PM -0800, David Johnson wrote:
> However, I had overlooked kgv. Doh! It's quite obvious, actually. I'm
> wondering why the copyright holders haven't said anything about it...
> > If they're still on the net, I would assume that they didn't care
> > because they haven't complained yet, but a copyright court would
> > remind you that that's not a legal principle.
> If they don't believe that it is a license violation, then they don't
> have anything to complain about. I don't think that there's a legal
> obligation for the copyright holder to public announce his or her
> approval or displeasure of the code reuse.

you're right. there is no such obligation. however, users/distributors
of the software are bound by the terms of the license (i.e. the GPL).

if the original authors don't say anything (i.e. explicitly allow their
code to be linked with Qt and redistributed) then nobody but them is
allowed to distribute a version modified in that way.

everybody else has to abide by the terms of the license under which the
software is released, and the GPL is quite clear about what you can
and can't do. In particular, you have to distribute all of the code
under the same terms as the GPL (with an exception for system libraries
that normally come with the OS/compiler/etc, *except* when those system
libraries are distributed along with the code in question. Qt doesn't
qualify because it is not a system library normally distributed with the
OS and even if it was, we still wouldn't be allowed to distribute it
along with, say, KDE or kgv).

you may ask "why does the GPL have this restriction?" - the answer
is simple: to prevent GPL-ed code from being stolen into proprietary
programs through underhandeded "tricks" like putting any modifications
into proprietary libraries.

anyway, what this means is that you can't legally distribute GPL-ed
code that is linked with Qt (which is distributed under a license with
terms which are incompatible with the GPL) unless a) you are one of the
authors or b) there is an explicit statement in the license allowing
you to do so - e.g. "this software is licensed under the terms of the
GNU GPL. In addition, you may distribute versions linked with the Qt

other dists may choose to ignore this fact. Debian actually cares about
free software and about licenses and we only distribute software when
the license allows us to do so.

the KDE team seems to like pretending that this isn't so (presumably
because they don't want to admit that they've been wrong), so they duck
and dodge and completely ignore this issue as much as possible. if the
KDE developers were to explicitly grant this permission in their license
then debian would be able to distribute KDE (the bulk of it, anyway).
They won't, so we can't.

there are two "easy" solutions to this problem:

1st is the KDE team explicitly granting the required permission. this
would solve the problem for all software where they are the copyright
owners (but not for "3rd party" software like kgv).

2nd is for Trolltech to change the QPL so that it was compatible with
the GPL. This would solve the problem for everyone.

whether this happens or not is entirely up to KDE or the Trolls or both.
nobody says they have to do either...but unless they do, no-one except
the authors is legally allowed to distribute their GPL-ed code linked
with Qt.

if they do, then great! problem solved, everyone can be happy.

if they don't, then no big deal. there's plenty of good software around
which *doesn't* have serious licensing problems.


craig sanders

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