Nokia changing open source licensing for Qt


From the “what a difference an L makes” files:

Nokia is going to change the licensing for Qt (the open source graphics toolkit) from GPL to LGPL starting in March of this year with the Qt 4.5 release.

This is a BIG deal. The GPL license is more restrictive than the LGPL (lesser GPL) in how it is enabled to integrate with other non Free software. With the LGPL, Qt might be able to be more easily integrated (from a legal point of view) with a wider range of software. Qt has been available under a commercial license as well, but that presents its own set of issues and limits Qt to commercial software.

“By moving to LGPL, opening Qt’s source code repositories and encouraging more contributions, Qt users will have more of a stake in the development of Qt, which will in turn encourage wider adoption,” Kai Oistama Executive Vice President, Devices, Nokia said in a statement.

Nokia aquired Qt’s lead commercial sponsor Trolltech in January of 2008 for $150 million. In terms of Qt itself, the 4.0 release came out in June of 2005 so the 4.5 release is the first big step in a few years. While Nokia’s obvious interest in Qt relates to its mobile platforms, Qt is also widely used in desktop as well and is the basis of the KDE open source desktop.

The move to LGPL could also potentially pave the way for Qt to become a more disruptive force in cross-platform development (Mac, Windows, Linux, Mobile), though I have not seen any specific examples of how the GPL may have limited Qt’s usability on the desktop. The mobile space with its myriad proprietary drivers is a different beast and the move to LGPL is one that could have significant benefits for Nokia, very rapidly.

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