Qt, Open Source and corona

Olaf Schmidt-Wischhöfer ojschmidt at kde.org
Wed Apr 8 11:53:47 BST 2020

Dear KDE community,

the relationship between the KDE community, the Qt project and The Qt Company 
has always been close and beneficial for all three.

* The Qt Company benefits from having a large and healthy community of 
contributors, developers and experts around their product.
* KDE benefits from being able to use Qt and to contribute directly to Qt.
* The Qt project benefits from having the company as a steward and very large 
contributor, and having KDE as a large and well-known sub-community.

Last December, I published a document explaining the win-win-win-relationship: 

Unfortunately, The Qt Company is currently considering to stop this healthy 

Fortunately, the KDE Free Qt Foundation exists, which secures the continued 
existence of Open Source Qt:
Together with Martin Konold, I represent KDE in the board of the foundation.

I will now give you a bit of background information.

During the past two years, there have been negotiations between The Qt Company 
and the KDE Free Qt Foundation for updating the contract.

Our goals in negotiations:
* helping the company increase their revenue without harming the Qt project or 
the KDE community
* strengthening the protection of the Qt project and of the KDE community
* avoiding a parting of ways between The Qt Company and the Qt+KDE communities

Concrete areas included in the negotiations are:

* Fixing the incompatibility between paid Qt license terms and using or 
contributing to Open Source
(“Prohibited Combination” in https://www.qt.io/terms-conditions/ )
* Fixing the license incompatibility between the Qt Design Studio (which is 
only partly Free Software) and our existing contract with the company
* Making our contract with the company stronger, requiring them to make 
immediate Free Software releases of Qt (currently, they are allowed to delay 
by 12 months) to ensure the availability of LTS security fixes for KDE
* Updating our contract to include Wayland
* Evaluating contract changes suggested by the company aimed at making the Qt 
business more profitable, for example the option of selling bundles of Qt with 
other software, or making integrations with proprietary third-party software 

One setback in the negotiations has been an announcement of The Qt Company in 
January: https://www.qt.io/blog/qt-offering-changes-2020
They announced that LTS releases of Qt will only be available for paid license 
holders. It is still unclear what this implies for contributions to Qt and for 
the sharing of security fixes between the various parties (including The Qt 
Company, the many Qt experts contributing, the KDE community, and Linux 

At an in-person meeting in Frankfurt on March 6, we nevertheless managed to 
lay the groundwork for a possible path forward, continuing with an approach 
beneficial to all sides.

But last week, the company suddenly informed both the KDE e.V. board and the 
KDE Free QT Foundation that the economic outlook caused by the Corona virus 
puts more pressure on them to increase short-term revenue. As a result, they 
are thinking about restricting ALL Qt releases to paid license holders for the 
first 12 months. They are aware that this would mean the end of contributions 
via Open Governance in practice.

Obviously, it cannot be in the middle- and long-term health of The Qt Company 
to separate itself from the very strong Qt + KDE communities.

We hope The Qt Company will reconsider. However, this threat to the Open 
Source community needs to be anticipated, so that the Qt and KDE communities 
can prepare themselves.

The Qt Company says that they are willing to reconsider the approach only if 
we offer them concessions in other areas. I am reminded, however, of the 
situation half a year ago. We had discussed an approach for contract updates, 
which they suddenly threw away by restricting LTS releases of Qt instead.

What does this mean for the future of Qt and for the future of KDE?

All software changes in Qt will still be available at as Open Source as 
required by our contract – maybe with a delay of 12 months if the company 
decides to part ways with the communities.

We will continue to work on a contract update that helps all sides. But even 
if these negotiations were to be unilaterally stopped by The Qt Company, Qt 
will stay Open Source, and KDE will be able to use it. I am also absolutely 
sure that the Qt + KDE communities will continue cooperation on new features, 
bug fixes, and security fixes, even should The Qt Company decide to forgo the 
benefits of cooperation.

I invite The Qt Company to stay with us. It will be worthwhile.

Best regards,


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