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[FYI] Fiduciary Licence Agreement (FLA)


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Fiduciary Licence Agreement (FLA)

 Version 1.0

      English: PDF(96k)
      German: PDF(94k)

What is the FLA?  

The Fiduciary Licence Agreement (FLA) seeks to strengthen the legal 
fundament of Free Software by allowing Free Software authors to make 
the FSF Europe their fiduciary for all legal issues.  

This is in principle very similar to what the FSF North America has 
been doing with its Copyright Assignments (CAs) for the GNU Project 
in order to secure the legal fundament on which our operating system 

As some readers will know, the continental European "Droit d'Auteur" 
(authorship right) tradition is in some parts significantly different 
from the Anglo-American Copyright tradition.  

Giving special attention to these differences, the Fiduciary Licence 
Agreement offers a European approach to the same issues handled by 
the Copyright Assignment mentioned above.  


The effects of the Fiduciary Licence Agreement can be summarized as 

Transferral of Copyright/Exclusive Exploitation rights to the FSF 
Europe Re-Transferral of unlimited Usage/Single Exploitation rights 
to the assigning party. Safety clause: Should the FSF Europe ever use 
the transferred rights for proprietary software, the assignment 
becomes void.  


The Fiduciary Licence Agreement (FLA) was written in cooperation 
between RA Dr. Till Jaeger, Dr. Axel Metzger, Carsten Schulz (ifross) 
and Georg Greve (FSF Europe) in consultation with others who take 
interest in the legal security of Free Software. At some time 
involved in the process were Prof. Eben Moglen, RA Thorsten Feldmann, 
LL.M., Werner Koch, Alessandro Rubini, Reinhard Müller and others.  


The Fiduciary Licence Agreement (FLA) is Copyright 2002, 2003 Free 
Software Foundation Europe. Similar to the GNU General Public License 
(GPL), everyone is given permission to copy and distribute it, but 
changing it is not allowed.  

If you wish to make the FSF Europe your fiduciary by filling out the 
assignment, please send information about the project to 

For the legal security of Free Software, we hope to be able to 
provide this service to as many projects as possible, but our 
resources are limited by the support we receive in terms of volunteer 
contribution and donations, so this will need to be decided upon a 
case to case basis.  

If you are another Free Software organization that wishes to adopt 
the Fiduciary Licence Agreement to increase the legal standing of 
your own projects, please also write to fla@fsfeurope.org.  

Generally we will be glad to allow such uses, but we would like to 
know what you plan and also to ask you to include a notice referring 
to the source of the document.  


General feedback, comments and also questions about the Fiduciary 
Licence Agreement (FLA) can be sent to fla@fsfeurope.org.  


With growing popularity, Free Software also faces more and more legal 
issues. Unlike proprietary projects, which tend to be owned by a 
single company and thrown away after a few years, Free Software often 
has many authors and is used for many years, some of the Free 
Software programs in wide use are 10-20 years old or even older than 

Making sure these programs will be legally safe to use and defendable 
even after their authors are possibly nowhere to be found or have 
even left planet earth is one of the issues the Free Software 
community is facing.  

Recently, we have also seen an increase in cases where authors of 
Free Software were attacked solely on legal grounds to get him or her 
to change the name of a software package or to stop distributing it 
entirely. We as a community must find ways to defend our active 
contributors against this.  

Another issue is that more and more companies are running Free 
Software projects and ask developers to give up their rights so these 
companies can sell proprietary versions of that piece of Free 

As management, company policy and markets are often subject to 
drastic and rapid change, no company could ever guarantee to stick to 
a certain policy for 20 years or more. Additionally, no company is 
entirely safe from bankruptcy or buy-outs by other companies.  

Also for this reason companies often don't trust each other to "do 
the right thing" for a long time into the future.  

The Fiduciary Licence Agreement will help with all these issue by 
allowing the FSF Europe  

to relicence software under a new Free Software licence, should it 
become necessary because of technical or legal changes. to defend 
software against abuse, even in court, should that become necessary. 
to protect Free Software authors by accepting to take over their risk 
of being attacked on legal grounds. to provide a stabilizing and 
equalizing factor in commercial or mixed commercial/volunteer Free 
Software development.  

Especially the fourth issue is becoming increasingly important with 
publicly funded software in Europe.  

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