Re: When will KDE and Debian get together?

Subject: Re: When will KDE and Debian get together?
From: Ray (
Date: Thu May 25 2000 - 12:19:05 CEST

In a letter to LWN you write:
>As far as I know this is the only major open-source package that is not
>officially supported by Debian. I suspect this bad situation is a leftover
>from the old flame wars that used to erupt between GNOME and KDE
>supporters. It was alleged at the time of those flamewares that although
>KDE itself was GPLed, the package could not really be considered free since
>it depended on the Qt-1 library which was not.

This is a common misunderstanding. "Debian's stance on KDE copyright and
licensing issues" ( gives an
extensive analysis of the KDE issue. The issue is /not/ KDE's dependence on
a non-free library, but the incompatibility between KDE's licensing terms
and the licensing terms on the Qt library it depends on.

>What is ironic about the exclustion of KDE from Debian now, is that the
>Qt-1 library is actually officially supported by Debian!

It is not. The "non-free" section of Debian mirrors (from which qt1 .debs
are available) is /not/ an official part of Debian GNU/Linux and is e.g. not
included on the official Debian CD images (

>I personally think this whole situation is rather petty, but I was willing
>to give Debian some slack so they could gracefully back down from their
>impossible position especially now that both Qt-2 and KDE-2 are coming out
>under free licenses.

While Qt2 is under a free license (after a drafing process in which Debian's
Joseph Carter provided extensive feedback), this license, the QPL, is
unfortunately not compatible with the GPL. This has been pointed out to
Troll Tech, but has not resulted in changes in the QPL.

>But in the interests of fairness, I don't see why this official Debian
>discrimination against KDE continues.

Because there have been no fundamental changes in the situation. After
analysis of KDE's and Qt's licensing terms (both the non-free Qt1 licensing
terms and the free QPL), the Debian project has concluded it cannot legally
distribute KDE binaries.

For the Debian project to be able to legally distribute KDE binaries, KDE's
and Qt's licensing terms would have to be made compatible. This could be
done in many ways, the most relevant of which are:
- license KDE under the GPL plus an explicit exception granting the right to
  (re)distribute binaries linked against Qt
- license KDE under a different free license like the Artistic License
- release Qt under a BSD-style license; see

Many people within Debian have lobbied with both the KDE project and Troll
Tech for one of these changes to be made. Regrettably, so far this has not
resulted in a change that would allow the Debian project to legally
distribute KDE binaries.


Pinky, Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?
I think so, Brain, but "Snowball for Windows"? 
	Pinky and the Brain in "Snowball"

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