Die Vielseitigkeit der Freiheit

Freiheit ist ein Thema, das in vielen politischen Zusammenhängen eine große Rolle spielt. Das war auch schon früher so – und nicht nur in der Politik, sondern in ganz unterschiedlichen Bereichen der Geistesgeschichte.

Ich finde es spannend, wie vielseitig die verschiedenen Ebenene und Seiten der Freiheit sind. Hier ist eine kleine Zusammenstellung von Zitaten – natürlich längst nicht vollständig.


New agreement of the KDE Free Qt Foundation

Today we were able to announce a revised agreement between the KDE Free Qt Foundation
and The Qt Company.

It contains major improvements for KDE (more platforms; more Free Qt modules; inclusion of Qt Project; many small details). It also comes with a change to the licensing rules of Qt, as described in the news article linked above and as discussed earlier on this blog.

The new agreement follows nearly two years of negotiations, with intensive scrutiny by KDE e.V. members and a helpful review by our lawyer, Till Jaeger.

I am very happy that we have finally concluded this.

User Data Portability and Privacy – Comment on Recent News

On Thursday, the EU reached a compromise for a new General Data Protection Regulation. I would like to offer two short comments.

First, the timing is interesting: One day later, a new law came into force that introduces increased surveillance of German internet users, and the US is also about implement a law that subjects American citizen to increased surveillance. (See my last blog post for more context.)

Secondly, the EU claims that the new data protection will allow “data portability”: It will be easier for users to access their own data and to migrate with their data to a different company / service. For this to work, the law needs to be well-written (not clear yet); it needs to be efficiently enforced (doubtful given the current attitudes to privacy law violations); and the law needs to come into effect (definitely not earlier than 2018).

Anyway, I am happy that KDE signed the User Data Manifesto 2.0 a few months ago. Why wait for official legislation when we can do the right thing right now?

Big Data and International Development

The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in Brighton, UK, has published an interesting research report: Big Data and International Development: Impacts, Scenarios and Policy Options, written by Stephen Spratt and Justin Baker.

It focusses on the use of the growing data pools in developing countries. It analyses several policy areas: economy, human development, rights, and environment.

The part on privacy rights mentions a very important aspect (page 29):

A primary responsibility of any government is to protect its citizens. Governments of all kinds have used big data techniques to identify and monitor potential threats. These same techniques, however, are also used to identify and monitor opponents of the government, or just groups with views the government does not like. In practice, it is not obvious how big data techniques could be restricted to the first type of example, as the way they are employed is dependent on what the government considers to be a ‘threat’, and this varies hugely.


It is very difficult for any government to argue that certain groups should not be suppressed in other countries, even where their governments disagree with them, if other groups – no matter how distasteful – are suppressed in their own country. For this reason, there seems no option but to err on the side of freedom of speech and association, within the law, for countries of all kinds.

Thinking further from these quotes, I also wonder how well governments in developing countries are able to protect their databases from intruders. This is especially true since it is possible to de-anonymise a database by combining it with other, differently anonymised databases. We live in a world were the most powerful democracy collects vast pools of information on the citizens of other countries, and offers these citizens no legal standing to defend their privacy. Many other, non-democratic or half-democratic countries are trying to copy this approach of stealing data wherever possible. And even countries that have taken position against this tendency (e.g. Germany) are at the same time remarkably shy about all practical steps to defend their citizens from these abuses. Do we really trust poor countries to get it right, when even the rich democracies fail spectacularly?

Global Inclusiveness: Climate Change, Development Policy, and People With Disabilities (updated)

Yesterday, 195 countries adopted an agreement to combat climate change. And in July, 193 countries adopted the Sustainable Development Goals. Both are important successes for the future of humankind, even if it is not clear how far all these countries will stick to their commitments in the future.

I find it interesting to look into both documents together. The climate agreement reinforces a central theme of the Sustainable Development Goals – namely: It is important not treat questions of economy, environment, health, and inclusive societies separately. The global challenges are deeply linked. Climate change threatens especially those humans living in extreme poverty. People with more money can better afford to move to less endangered locations, or to build stronger houses. At the same time, poverty is statistically linked to being part of an ethnic minority, to being a women, to having a disability …

It is a good sign that both documents contain explicit references to the most vulnerable people.

As an example, here are a few quotes from the climate agreement: (more…)

Availability of Qt Free Edition (updated)

In my last blog posts, I explained the KDE Free Qt Foundation, which guarantees the free availability of the Qt Toolkit. Today, The Qt Company introduced a new Qt online installer that requires users to accept additional license terms. Many people have contacted me with concerns about this change. I share this concern. Even before this, I have already been concerned about the structure of the qt.io download page, since it blurs the lines between the Qt Toolkit itself and additional, proprietary products.

As a workaround, please use the qt-opensource-* files in the sub-subfolders of http://download.qt.io/official_releases/qt/.

In my function as KDE’s representative on the KDE Free Qt Foundation, I am working with The Qt Company on having all this fixed. I still trust that this was an honest mistake inside The Qt Company, and that the corrections will be made soon.

Update: The Qt Company is changing the installer to make the Qt account optional. This was a very professional reaction to the criticism voiced here and elsewhere and bodes well for the future of Qt.

Good news: Compatibility of LGPLv2 and LGPLv3

Two of the most used Free Software licenses are the GNU General Public License (GPL) and the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). Both are copyleft licenses, meaning that you can use them as long as you do not remove the Free Software rights from downstream users. The difference is that the LGPL can be linked unto non-free software (as long as the LGPL library itself stays free), but with the GPL everything needs to be free. In 2007, the FSF published an update to both licenses, so now we have version 2 (“GPLv2” and “LGPLv2.1”) and version 3 (“GPLv3” and “LGPLv3”).

An example for an LGPL software is Qt. Since it uses the LGPL, it can be used to write Free Software (such as KDE Plasma or VLC), but it can also be used to write non-free software. And companies that do not wish to bother with the LGPL terms at all can also buy en enterprise license.

In August, I explained in a blog post why it makes sense to use the new LGPLv3 version for Qt: Protecting Software Freedom – the Qt License Update. But there was one major question unsolved: What about other Qt-base libraries that themselves use the LGPLv2.1 and cannot (or do not with to) migrate to LGPLv3 or GPLv2? We discussed this with own lawyer. And the result was – [Drum rolls please!]:

This is no problem at all!

LGPLv2 libraries can link to LGPLv3 libraries without problems, provided you do not copy code between the libraries.

Long version:

  • We have convinced Digia to use “LGPLv3, GPLv2 or any later version of the GPL” rather than just plain LGPLv3. This ensures compatibility with all existing and future GPL code. (LGPLv2 is also compatible with “GPLv2 or any later version of the GPL” through a license clause.)
  • Applications using both LGPLv2 libraries and LGPLv3 libraries will need to comply with the requirements of both licenses.

So this means that we can go ahead with our plans for improving the KDE Free Qt Foundation (see Protecting Software Freedom – the Qt License Update).

Protecting Software Freedom – the Qt License Update

[Please also see the update.]

In my latest blog post, I briefly mentioned the KDE Free Qt Foundation. Today I have some news to announce that relate to this foundation, where I am a board member representing KDE.

What is the “KDE Free Qt Foundation”?

The KDE Free Qt Foundation is a legal entity, set up by KDE e.V. and Trolltech, the company originally developing Qt. It aims to safeguard the availability of Qt as Free Software and already fulfilled an important role. Trolltech was bought by Nokia, who sold Qt later to Digia. The contracts stayed valid during all these transitions.

The foundation has four voting board members (two from Digia, two from KDE e.V.) and two non-voting advisory board members (the Trolltech founders). In case of a tie, KDE e.V.’s board members have an extra vote.

Through a contract with Digia, the KDE Free Qt Foundation receives rights to all Free Qt releases “for the KDE Windowing System” (currently defined as X11 – we plan to extend this to Wayland) and for Android. As long as Digia keeps the contract, the KDE Free Qt Foundation will never make use of these rights.

How can it be made even better?


The two sides of freedom

Today, I am launching my new blog.
In this first post, I will discuss the concept of freedom.
I start with general thoughts, and then I apply them to Free Software licenses and especially the Free Software umbrella KDE.

Throughout history, the word “freedom” has been used to mean many different things. It has been the central word for revolutions, for declarations of independence, for human rights movements, for philosophers, for theologians, for the Free Software movement. It is used in marketing slogans for phone companies, for KDE, for both cigarettes and non-smoking initiatives. The word has also been used to justify military occupations, torture and mass surveillance.

In many cases, “more freedom” for one side of a conflict means “less freedom” for the other side. But if you consider the debates around freedom for a while, then you can see a deeper pattern within the concept of freedom itself:

How do you protect freedom without destroying it?