According to this wikipedia page, KDE uses Free Software Foundation Europe's Fiduciary Licence Agreement, which assigns the copyright to KDE e.V.

The following quote confused me:

However, it is optional and every contributor is allowed not to assign their copyright to KDE e.V.

How does KDE remain free/libre software if some contributors withhold their copyright?

2 Answers 2


The software would still be free even if every single contributor withheld their copyright. Copyright assignments and CLAs are mechanisms that make certain legal operations easier, like enforcement or relicensing. They are not fundamental to free or open source software.

Consider if the project maintainer had found a compatibly-licensed piece of code and decided to include it in the project. That doesn't require any copyright transfer. A contribution without a copyright assignment is just like that, except the contributor gives the code directly to the project, instead of having the project discover the code on their own.


Copyright is not what allows them to use the content.

In submitting their contributions, contributors grant KDE a license to use their contributions. Copyright assignment provides extra rights for KDE and means they can do completely as they like with the work, but is not necessary for simple use.

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