By Richard Stallman
Until recently, I regarded KDE as causing a problem for our
community. The release of Qt under the GPL solved that problem, and
now I have no reason to be against KDE. I am not against KDE,
though I am still for GNOME. A few days ago I wrote an article to
say so. My reward was a string of tirades.
KDE is not a problem now, but there are possible problems for
some parts of KDE in regard to use of the GPL. I believe these
problems can be solved, and since I am not against KDE, I would
like them to be solved. So I pointed them out, and then did what I
could to help solve them in order to ask others to cooperate in
There is no hostility towards KDE in any of this, and there was
none in my article. But a number of people seem to have read
hostility into it–in effect misunderstanding it by 180
Many readers misunderstood details of the article as well,
seeing attacks where there were none. Some saw my pointing out a
correctable problem for KDE as an attack on KDE. Some saw hostility
in my GNOME “team cheer”, but the point was just the opposite:
trying to outdo the other team and win the match is not
Meanwhile, everything I said that was well-disposed or helpful
was disregarded, or perhaps not accurately perceived. Some readers
managed to find an insult in my use of the word “forgiveness”. I
mentioned the possibility that GNOME and KDE could be merged, and
yet received criticism for not suggesting it.
I think that these readers read my article through a filter of
defensiveness, and they read into the article the hostility they
were looking for.
Some people denied that KDE had ever used FSF-copyrighted code,
treating the matter as an accusation. But I was concerned with
clearing away a possible problem for KDE, not making an accusation.
I don’t know what code is in KDE, and maybe it does not contain
FSF-copyrighted code, but that isn’t the point anyway. The point is
to say, “If it does have any FSF-copyrighted code, that is now
KDE developers have argued that all they need to do, to solve
these problems where they exist, is rewrite and replace the
affected code. They are right–that would solve the problem. But
while writing the article, I felt that there was no reason to make
them take that trouble. We can save them the trouble simply by
saying, “It is ok now for KDE to use our code”. I asked everyone to
extend that cooperation to KDE, and did so myself to set an
example. (Some people attacked me for doing this publicly; sure I
could have done it privately, but that wouldn’t have encouraged
other people to do likewise.)
The hardest problem is probably Kghostview, because we have lost
contact with the author of Ghostview. Two months ago I was trying
to find Tim Theisen to ask him to enforce the GPL on Ghostview, but
I could not find him. Now I would ask him to declare that
Kghostview is ok, but I still have not found him. If anyone can
find Tim Theisen, please put me in touch with him.
By the way, there is no need to worry about contributors who
provided small bits of code (up to ten or fifteen lines), because
at that size they don’t make a significant legal issue.
False accusations are an injustice; here they can also lead to
serious problems for the community. It would be a shame to have
conflict between GNOME developers and KDE developers now that it is
unnecessary. I hope that KDE developers and fans will put aside
their hostility, as I put aside mine a week ago.
Copyright 2000 Richard Stallman
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