KDE has decided to offer its code contributors an option to use a Fiduciary Licence Agreement that it worked out with FSFE's Freedom Task Force. It's a recommendation, not a requirement. It's a copyright assignment vehicle designed to ensure legal maintainability of the project. And I hear that the response has been very positive already.
At first I was going to put the FSFE press release in News Picks, but I consider this such a wise legal decision on KDE's part, because -- as the press release phrases it, it "enables projects to ensure their legal maintainability, including important issues such as preserving the ability to re-license and certainty to have sufficient rights to enforce licences in court" -- that I am putting it here, so you will consider it too for your project, especially if yours is an international project. You may recall Groklaw's Sean Daly interviewed Shane Coughlan, who leads the Freedom Task Force project, when it was first announced in early 2007. If you have questions, here's the Freedom Task Force contact page. Notice in the press release that the FLA template was used to come up with an FLA for KDE in particular, and you can do something similar for your project, with the Freedom Task Force's help.
I also wanted to mention that FSFE has a Legal and Technical Network now:
The Freedom Task Force coordinates a European Legal and Technical Network. Each participant is referred to as a 'delegate' of the respective network. Membership is by invitation only and if you are interested in participating you can contact us.
Our goal is to strengthen the legal foundation of Free Software through building connections between professionals and researchers active on the continent. The network currently has over 50 legal experts, over 30 technical experts and covers sixteen European countries. It also maintains contacts in Canada, the USA, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.
Some network delegates are explicitly recommended by FSFE. To be explicitly recommended the delegate must be approved by the governing council of FSFE.
I think, after thinking a lot about Jacobsen v. Katzer, that the US needs something similar, a place where you can go to find attorneys who know something about FOSS and understand how to protect your interests without doing damage to the FOSS ecosystem at large.
FSFE welcomes KDE's adoption of the Fiduciary Licence Agreement (FLA)
Free Software Foundation Europe welcomes the adoption of the Fiduciary
Licence Agreement by the K Desktop Environment project. The FLA is a
copyright assignment that allows Free Software projects to assign their
copyright to single organisation or person. This enables projects to
ensure their legal maintainability, including important issues such as
preserving the ability to re-license and certainty to have sufficient
rights to enforce licences in court.
"We see the adoption of the FLA by KDE as a positive and important
milestone in the maturity of the Free Software community," says Georg
Greve, president of Free Software Foundation Europe. "The FLA was
designed to help projects increase the legal maintainability of their
software to ensure long-term protection and reliability. KDE is among
the most important Free Software initiatives and it is playing a central
role in bringing freedom to the desktop. This decision of the KDE
project underlines its dedication to think about how to make that
Adriaan de Groot, Vice President of KDE e.V., the organisation behind
the KDE project, said "KDE e.V. has endorsed the use of a particular FLA
based directly on the FSFE's sample FLA as the preferred way to assign
copyright to the association. We recognise that assignment is an option
that individuals may wish to exercise; it is in no way pushed upon KDE
contributors. There are also other avenues of copyright assignment
available besides the FLA, but we believe this is the easiest way to get
it done, with little fuss. Enthusiasm for the FLA was immediate --
people were asking for printed versions of the form before the week was
out so that they could fill one in."
"The FLA is a versatile document designed to work across different
countries with different perceptions of copyright and authorship,"
says Shane Coughlan, Freedom Task Force coordinator. "As a truly
international project, KDE provides a great example of how the FLA can
provide legal coherency in the mid-to-long term. It's been a pleasure
to help with the adoption process and FSFE's Freedom Task Force is ready
to continuing supporting KDE in the future."
KDE's adoption of the FLA is the result of cooperation between
KDE e.V. and FSFE's Freedom Task Force over the last year and a half,
part of the deepening collaboration between the two associate
About the FLA:
The FLA was written by Dr. Axel Metzger (Ifross) and Georg Greve
(FSFE) in consultation with renowned international legal and
technical experts. Parties involved in the evolution of the FLA at
some point or another included RA Dr. Till Jaeger, Carsten Schulz,
Prof. Eben Moglen, RA Thorsten Feldmann, LL.M., Werner Koch,
Alessandro Rubini, Reinhard Muller and others. The latest revision
was compiled by Georg Greve and FSFE's FTF coordinator Shane M
Coughlan based on feedback provided by Dr. Lucie Guibault of the
Institute for Information Law in the Netherlands.
KDE is an international technology team that creates free and open
source software for desktop and portable computing. Among KDE's
products are a modern desktop system for Linux and UNIX platforms,
comprehensive office productivity and groupware suites and hundreds
of software titles in many categories including Internet and web
applications, multimedia, entertainment, educational, graphics and
software development. KDE software is translated into more than 60
languages and is built with ease of use and modern accessibility
principles in mind. KDE4's full-featured applications run natively on
Linux, BSD, Solaris, Windows and Mac OS X.
About the Free Software Foundation Europe:
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a non-profit
non-governmental organisation active in many European countries and
involved in many global activities. Access to software determines
participation in a digital society. To secure equal participation in
the information age, as well as freedom of competition, the Free
Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) pursues and is dedicated to the
furthering of Free Software, defined by the freedoms to use, study,
modify and copy.Founded in 2001, creating awareness for these issues,
securing Free Software politically and legally, and giving people
Freedom by supporting development of Free Software are central issues
of the FSFE.
The Freedom Task Force can be found at http://www.fsfeurope.org/ftf/
The Freedom Task Force can be emailed at ftf at fsfeurope.org