[FYI] QT4 licensing looks very bad for *BSD

Ted Mittelstaedt tedm at toybox.placo.com
Thu Jun 30 07:10:36 GMT 2005

>-----Original Message-----
>From: owner-freebsd-questions at freebsd.org
>[mailto:owner-freebsd-questions at freebsd.org]On Behalf Of Chuck Swiger
>Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2005 7:47 AM
>To: Danny Pansters
>Cc: freebsd-questions at freebsd.org
>Subject: Re: [FYI] QT4 licensing looks very bad for *BSD

>Also note that the Open Source Definition does not allow 
>restrictions on the 
>field of endeavor:
>"The license must not restrict anyone 


  The copyright laws govern this sort of thing not the GPL, and
the courts have consistently held that a Copyright holder can
pretty much do what they want, and can put any kind of licensing
terms they want on something.  In short a Copyright holders
right to control how his work is used trumps anything else.

  What this means is that if you have a case where someone
takes the GPL license and rewrites it to cover their work,
what a court is going to rule is that while the FSF may have
infringement grounds for suing the person for modifying the GPL,
that still does not affect the copyright status of the work
under the modified GPL.  What the person would be required to
do is cease infringing the GPL which means they would have
to strike all references to the name GPL from their modified
license, and probably significantly change sentences in it
so that it's not a verbatim copy, but a 1st year legal student
could do that.  They would not be barred from creating TERMS
that are mostly similar to the GPL's terms, yet containing
additional un-GPL-like restrictions.

  This also means that if you happened to be using software
under this modified GPL license, you would have no grounds for
a defence of "well your honor his license was supposed to
be less restrictive because he says it's GPL and the GPL is
less restrictive than what his license terms are, so I just
followed the GPL terms, not his modified terms"

  Now, there IS one loophole in the Qt modified GPL license.
That is, you could use a program like emacs to write a C++
program that calls Qt classes.  You could then distribute this
program in source form, with a commercial or restrictive
license, despite the fact that Trolltech's wording is:

"By using this version of Qt/QSA, you agree to"

 and legally you would not be infringing.  Any user that
compiled your program with Qt would be infringing.  However, if
you used QtDesigner or any of that to write your C++ program,
your source would be subject to the Qt license restrictions.

Of course, if you removed references in your source to Qt
Designer, it would be impossible for TrollTech to prove
that you used it, rather than Emacs, to write your source,
but that's a side issue. ;-)


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