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Günter Bechly : Open Letter to the KDE Project

Jun 06, 2000, 15:50 (19 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Günter Bechly)

[ Thanks to Günter Bechly for this announcement: ]

Dear KDE team,
in the recent edition of Linux Weekly News of 1st June 2000 the old debate of the potential inclusion of KDE2 to the Debian GNU/Linux distribution is discussed again.
Even though KDE2 and QT2 are free software according to all standards (incl. DFSG), KDE2 is not planned to be included in the forthcoming Debian releases 2.2 (aka Potato) and 2.3 (aka Woody), because the QPL licence of QT2 is not compatible with the GPL licence of most of the KDE2 code. An elaboration of Debian's stance on KDE and QT licencing can be found at http://www.debian.org/News/1998/19981008 and http://www.uk.debian.org/~phil/KDE-FAQ.html. Debian does have a very strict position on such licensing issues, and even if some people may think that their position is somewhat nittygritty, it is a clear point of view that distinguishes Debian from commercial distributions (e.g. Redhat or SuSE).

The sad thing is that many people who like KDE very much, also prefer the Debian distribution because of their very commitment to the free software spirit, because of their high quality standards, because of their superior package management system, and because of their vast number of available packages (about 4500 in Potato). Therefore, it would be highly desirable for KDE AND Debian to solve the mentioned licence problems with the release of KDE2.

Many discussions in the past have lead to nothing but frustration on both sides, because none of the involved parties was able to agree on a compromise.

It is possible that the licence issue could be partly resolved by Debian by the simple assumption that all KDE authors who have released their code under GPL have implicitly agreed to link their GPLed code to the QPLed Qt toolkit. However, Debian will not make this assumption, since it would weaken their stance on licence issues, and since it would also not resolve the conflict with third party GPLed code that was used by the KDE project.

Thus, there is only one realistic solution to the problem: All GPLed code in KDE2 has to include a licence that amends the GPL with the following exception clause: "This program is distributed under the GNU GPL v2, with the additional permission that it may be linked against all versions of Troll Tech's Qt library that are distributed under the QPL, and is distributed without the GPL applying to Qt".

Of course changing all licences accordingly and contacting all referring authors of the code involves a lot of boring work that is not very attractive for dedicated coders, which might be the reason that the KDE project did not perform this rather simple solution yet. Therefore, I would like to stipulate the appropriate actions by offering a private donation of 3.000,- US-$ to the KDE project, in case (and only in case) that the licence of the official release of KDE2 (all official packages incl. koffice) will be modified in the mentioned way, so that KDE2 can be included in Debian-Woody at last. The Debian project has already stated in the past that they would of course include KDE as soon as the licence conflicts are resolved. Since the Debian maintainer Ivan E. Moore II has already made inofficial Debian packages of KDE1.x and KDE2beta for the KDE Packaging Project at http://kde.tdyc.com, he could likely become the maintainer of the future official packages.

I hope that my offer could contribute to a prospering common future of KDE and Debian for the benefit of the Linux community.

It would be nice if I could receive something like an "official" answer by the KDE project concerning my offer. If KDE should agree, I will send a signed contract that guarantees that my donation will be immediately made as soon as KDE2 is released with the Debian compatible licence changes. It is up to the KDE project how my donation would be used; it could be used for any purpose of the KDE project, or even as a personal reward ("salary") for the referring KDE persons that will make the work of the licence changes.
With kind regards,
Guenter Bechly

P.S. Please note that I only speak on behalf of myself and that I am not representing any involved party. I am just an dedicated Linux user who happens to like Debian and KDE (and Gnome too btw ;-). Copies of this letter have been posted to Mosfet, KDE.com, TDYC, Debian, LWN, LinuxToday, and Slashdot.

Dr. Guenter Bechly
Staatliches Museum fuer Naturkunde Stuttgart
Abt. Palaeontologie - Sekt. Bernstein
Rosenstein 1
D-70191 Stuttgart
Tel.: 0711 - 89 36 - 242
Fax: 0711 - 89 36 - 100
Email (office): bechly@gmx.de
Email (private): GBechly@gmx.de


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