Re: [Rd] R-base licensing question

From: Duncan Murdoch <murdoch_at_stats.uwo.ca>
Date: Sun 17 Sep 2006 - 05:53:04 GMT

On 9/16/2006 10:42 PM, Logan Lewis wrote:
> 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.

I'm not sure what you are asking, but in general R's GPL license is completely irrelevant unless you are distributing R. If you're writing a package and distributing only your own work, you can license it as you like.

If you want to distribute R (or GPL'd parts of it, or a GPL'd package) as part of another project, then that project will need to be GPL'd.

The header files are LGPL'd because you would need to incorporate them into your package to distribute a binary. The LGPL allows you to do that, without GPL'ing your package.

IANAL, etc.

Duncan Murdoch



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