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KDE Official Response to Stallman Editorial

Tuesday, 5 September 2000

In a recent editorial on Linux Today, Richard Stallman claimed that KDE is still in violation of the GPL even though Qt is now covered under the GPL and all KDE code is compatible with the GPL. His rather absurd reasoning is that since KDE once violated the GPL, it will always be in violation unless the individual copyright holders "grant forgiveness."

We maintain, as always, that there are no licensing problems with KDE. Here's why:

All code in KDE is copyrighted and covered under a free software (Open Source) license. The vast majority of the code was written explicitely for KDE. A few bits were written elsewhere and incorporated into KDE.

In the former case, Stallman himself has said that there is and never was any problem with license compatibilities. In an email to the debian-legal mailing list[1], he writes "if the authors of the program clearly intended it to be linked against Qt, I would say they have given some kind of implicit permission for people to do that."

In the latter case, his reasoning just doesn't make sense. There are only two parts of KDE that have GPLed code not written explicitely for KDE -- a small bit in kmidi and a few lines in kghostview. According to Stallman, because we once linked that code to a library not compatible with the GPL, we now have to beg forgiveness from the copyright holders of that code or we will forever be in violation.

The "solution" to this is simple: we remove the "tainted" code from kmidi and kghostview, release a "pure" version of each, then re-add those files. Since adding non-tainted code is fine, we would be cleared.

This entire thing is just too absurd and we refuse to play this game.

That said, if you or somebody you know has code in KDE whose copyright we really are violating, please speak up and send an email to so that we may fix the issue. In case of doubt, we have compiled three documents: one listing all modules in KDE and the license it follows[2], one listing all copyright holders in all code inside of the KDE CVS[3], and one with all copyright holders email addresses[4]