KDE's Fiduciary Licensing Agreement
The Fiduciary License Agreement (FLA) for KDE is a document with a long history; it has served us across two, maybe three major Qt and KDE versions, across probably two changes in version control systems, and a host of changes in the world and the KDE community. This week I started to update the document for the current situation.
The FLA can be found on the KDE e.V. website on the forms page, with some background and a list of signatories as well.
On my blog, I wrote about the FLA in 2020 (here about the FLA and here about SPDX) and also in 2009 (here about licensing and here when it launched). I’ll repeat some of the background information today, then describe what is being updated.
The FLA is a mechanism for assigning copyright – generally copyright over a piece of software – to a fiduciary. Someone you trust. The fiduciary is expected to Do The Right Thing with the copyright that is assigned to it. Unlike a Copyright License Agreement (or Assignment) which some software projects use, the FLA is carefully constructed to keep everything Free Software and to circumscribe what the fiducary may do. In addition, the FLA ensures that you, the original copyright holder, can continue to do all the Free Software things that you could originally do with your software.
So what’s the point?
Well, unlike a CLA, the FLA was written with preserving-your-Software-Freedom in mind (the FSFE spearheaded this approach) so that you can continue to use your code and release it under whatever license you like, while the fiduciary can also do that, but in a restricted (preserving Freedom) fashion. This allows centralizing – to the fiduciary – some decisions about the software that may be needed in the longer term.
The FLA text is stored in a git repository so the full history of the document is right there. It’s written in English, but marked up in LaTeX which may be a bit daunting; I’m not going to bother changing the format, though, since textual changes are still obvious enough.
Here’s some trivial changes:
- Cleaned up leftover files and typo’s,
- Made some spilling consistent.
And here’s the important bits:
- No longer refers to a specific version control system (it was SVN, then a specific git server, now it’s more general),
- Allows you to assign by KDE identity name (so there’s less emphasis on a specific email address),
- Supports company-wide assignments (for FLAs signed by employers that want to assign the work of their employees).
The new version is not yet on the KDE e.V. website; there are some administrative hurdles to be taken that will tide us over until Akademy.
How to Help
People already have! Nicolás Alvarez has added CI so that PDFs are built from the LaTeX sources, and Kevin Ottens had some layout improvements.
Since the FLA text lives in KDE Invent, it is open to merge requests. I’m working on the text when I have time. There is one relevant branch: update-1.3.6 which is for all the current round of updates, and one associated issue (number 1). I’d be happy for people to chase down things like the URL for REUSE guidelines, fixing links to Techbase (which should be the community wiki now), highlighting places where kdelibs4 is described as the latest-and-greatest .. document maintainence is a lot like software maintainence in that regard, there is plenty of not-so-charming work to do.
Once the text is done, then the next hurdles are:
- (big one) Updating the FLA and FRP require a motion at the general assembly of KDE e.V. – that is, the meeting which we usually have at Akademy. Akademy 2021 will be online, so we’ll have to have the virtual ducks in a row way before then.
- (little one) Updating the KDE e.V. website with the newer version of the PDFs. While I’m at it, I’d like to reduce the tangle of webpages and redirects around the FLA.
- (social) If you signed an older version of the FLA, it may be worthwhile to revisit that decision and sign the updated version to clarify your intentions.
If you are a KDE contributor (of artwork, code or documentation) and have not signed it at all, feel free: but double-check the document and remember that it is optional.