Why do we give so much power to the Qt Company when they don't actually own Qt?

The Qt Company (formerly known as Digia and later as Qt Group) does not actually own Qt in the sense of exclusive ownership. Instead, they are the primary entity responsible for the commercial development, distribution, and support of the Qt framework.

Qt, as an open-source framework, remains under the ownership of the Qt Free Foundation, a legal entity established by an agreement between Trolltech (the original creators of Qt) and KDE e.V. (the non-profit organization representing the KDE community). The foundation’s purpose is to ensure that Qt continues to be available as Free Software for the development of open-source projects, including KDE software.

The Qt Company, on the other hand, holds the commercial licensing rights to Qt. They offer commercial licenses to companies that want to use Qt in their proprietary, closed-source applications without adhering to the open-source licensing requirements, such as the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) or the GNU General Public License (GPL).

So, while the Qt Company is a significant contributor to Qt’s development and plays a vital role in its commercialization, they do not have full ownership of Qt itself. The Qt Free Foundation’s license agreement ensures that Qt remains available under open-source licenses, and the foundation has the authority to release Qt under more permissive licenses if certain conditions are not met by the Qt Company.

Why doesn’t the community just develop free and open-source alternatives to their commercial offerings, with the goal of completely undermining their revenue stream and forcing them to sell the rights they hold to Qt back to the community?

Why would anyone do that? Losing Qt (the group/company) would almost certainly spell the death of Qt as we know it. I’m not even sure what “free and open-source alternatives” to their commercial offerings mean, do you mean their commercial modules? Most of their commercial modules are already dual-licensed with GPLv3 so I don’t really see what the issue is there.


Because prior to 2012, when I was personally a KDE developer, we maintained and developed our own branch of Qt, with more than 50% of code contributions coming from the KDE community. The goal was always a BSD-licensed Qt. To suggest that “Losing Qt (the group/company) would almost certainly spell the death of Qt as we know it” is laughable at best. The moment the Qt company fails to satisfy the Qt Free Agreement, Qt would be relicensed under the BSD license. I know for a fact that Google, Microsoft, Autodesk, FreeBSD, and others would jump at the chance to develop Qt under a BSD license.

I was suggesting developing their commercial modules under permissive licenses. Let’s be honest, the GPLv3 is dying. GitHub shows that less than 3% of code on GitHub is GPLv3. The community is actively developing replacements for the GNU components that are left. The new MIT-licensed coreutils is almost complete, and LLVM, libc, and libc++ are not that far off.