Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

Fiduciary Licence Agreement (FLA)

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 stands.

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 follows:

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

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


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 that.

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 Software.

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.