Re: [Rd] Non-GPL C (or R) inside of a package

From: Prof Brian Ripley <>
Date: Tue, 30 Aug 2011 21:52:21 +0100 (BST)

On Tue, 30 Aug 2011, Duncan Murdoch wrote:

> On 30/08/2011 1:50 PM, Jeffrey Ryan wrote:
>> R-devel,
>> I am interested in creating a package that requires non-GPL'd
>> (commercial) C code to work. In essence it is a single .c file
>> with no use of R headers (all .C callable functions). For
>> example's sake:
>> 1 #include<stdio.h>
>> 2
>> 3 void test (int *a) {
>> 4 *a = 101;
>> 5 }
>> The package isn't destined for CRAN, and I realize that this isn't
>> R-legal, but looking for some expert advice from anyone else who
>> may have encountered this previously.
>> The question is whether or not one can distribute code that has
>> multiple licenses (.c or individual .R files), including some that
>> are not GPL-compatible, as a tar.gz (or binary) file. i.e., does
>> the packaging process [R CMD ***] cause everything to become GPL,
>> as we are using R itself to build the package?
> I can only say that the answer to the last question is "no": the author gets
> to choose the license for what s/he wrote. The fact that you used R to
> package it is irrelevant. (Some extremists will disagree, and say that
> because your package is intended to "link" to R, it must be licensed
> compatibly with the GPL if you distribute it. I don't think that's true.)

If no distribution is involved, the conditions under which the tarball can be distributed is not relevant.

As e.g. GNU tar is itself under GPL, using R to do the packaging is no different in principle to using GNU tar to do so and I've never heard anyone argue that using GNU tar affects the licence of the tarball.

I don't think that is the same issue as distributing non-GPLed code for use with R. In the latter case the issue is what 'link to' actually entails, and one source of advice is the GPL FAQs. E.g.

> If you are intending to distribute this file you are putting together, you'll
> probably want to consult someone who knows the legalities as to whether you
> can legally link to the commercial library...

> Duncan Murdoch
>> I can of course provide the C libs in this case as a separate install, but
>> that adds complexity to the overall build and install process.
>> Thanks,
>> Jeff
> ______________________________________________
> mailing list

Brian D. Ripley,        
Professor of Applied Statistics,
University of Oxford,             Tel:  +44 1865 272861 (self)
1 South Parks Road,                     +44 1865 272866 (PA)
Oxford OX1 3TG, UK                Fax:  +44 1865 272595

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