Re: [Rd] R-base licensing question

From: Logan Lewis <lr_at_proxc.net>
Date: Sun 17 Sep 2006 - 06:34:06 GMT

On Sunday 17 September 2006 1:53 am, you wrote:

> 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.
>[snip]

I realize how semantic this issue seems, but it boils down to what constitutes a derivative work under copyright. The standard (at least as the FSF sees it) is not whether you include GPL code for distribution, but whether you link to GPL code at all (even dynamically). This is, as you note, why the LGPL exists.

My point is that interpreted languages blur the lines (I've found similar discussions for other programming languages). Most of the time, the interpreter is clearly distinct from software written in the interpreted language. Perl is an example. Write Perl code, using the base language, and you can license it however you'd like. However, this particular FAQ argues that if you _use_ (not even include) GPL code written in Perl (like a Perl module), then you must distribute your code with a GPL-compatible license. It certainly struck me as a strict interpretation, but when you compare it to linking to a non-standard library of a compiled language, it is analogous. This is why the standard libraries in GCC are LGPL or have exceptions for non-GPL linking.

What makes R relatively unique is that almost everything a user will code calls functions from R-base, written in R itself (i.e. just another package, really). Certainly other R packages would be in the same position as the Perl modules mentioned as an example from this FAQ. That is, if you use a package's functionality in your code, you must distribute your code in accordance with the terms of the package's license.

Regards,
Logan



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