[Rd] R-base licensing question

From: Logan Lewis <lr_at_proxc.net>
Date: Sun 17 Sep 2006 - 02:42:39 GMT


It is my understanding that R is licensed under the GPL with the exception of a few header files for the purposes of linking binary code with R under non-GPL licenses.

However, the R-base package itself is licensed under the GPL, as are many (but not all) packages in CRAN. Furthermore, basically any R script will use functionality from R-base. As I understand it, the situation isn't clear as to the licensing restrictions on R scripts which use R-base (or any other GPL package). The FSF's FAQ on the issue says the following (of course, this is just their interpretation):

(http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#IfInterpreterIsGPL)

"[...]Another similar and very common case is to provide libraries with the interpreter which are themselves interpreted. For instance, Perl comes with many Perl modules, and a Java implementation comes with many Java classes. These libraries and the programs that call them are always dynamically linked together. A consequence is that if you choose to use GPL'd Perl modules or Java classes in your program, you must release the program in a GPL-compatible way, regardless of the license used in the Perl or Java interpreter that the combined Perl or Java program will run on."

Clearly, having R scripts (and basically all R add-on packages) be required to have GPL-compatible licenses is not the intent (especially considering the LGPLed header files mentioned above). R's position is somewhat unique in having much of the base functionality interpreted. In practice, this legal interpretation (IANAL, etc) would require essentially all R packages and other R scripts to be licensed in a GPL-compatible way. Is a legal exception in order here?

My apologies if this question is more appropriate for r-users or has been answered elsewhere.

Thanks,
Logan



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