Re: [R] licensing of R packages

From: Duncan Murdoch <murdoch_at_stats.uwo.ca>
Date: Fri, 14 Nov 2008 12:36:15 -0500

On 11/14/2008 11:57 AM, Carlos Ungil wrote:

> 
> Barry Rowlingson wrote:

>>
>> This misconception of the license terms comes about because of the
>> use of the word 'use'. If I distribute a short C program that has a
>> call in it to a function that has the same name as something in the
>> GSL, does my C program use the GSL? No. Maybe it _mentions_ the GSL,
>> but the GPL has no problems with that.
> 
> Maybe the GPL has no problems with that, but GSL authors will have. For
> example, regarding a similar situation one of the GSL authors commented:
> 
> [http://sourceware.org/ml/gsl-discuss/2001-q4/msg00033.html]

>> Any distributed code which refers to GSL functions should be licensed
>> to the end-user under the GPL. The intent of the GPL is that we make
>> our code free to other people if they do the same for us --- two-way
>> cooperation. The current R-quant license is not a free software
>> license so there should not be anything distributed under that license
>> which directly refers to GSL functions.
> 
> 
> Barry Rowlingson wrote:

>>
>> I'm distributing my C program, and not the GPL-covered code, so I can
>> license it how I like.
>>
> 
> And the copyright owners have recourse to legal action if they think there
> is a license violation. Again, I don't know what a court would decide, but
> if you want to test the limits of the GPL license I would avoid challenging
> a GNU project :-)

Actually, I think that's an ideal situation. There is a lot of fear and doubt about using GPL'd software, because of worries like yours. But the FSF has the resources to follow up in cases where there are actual violations, and they have won several.

The way to lose a GPL lawsuit is to incorporate GPL'd code into your own project, and then not follow the GPL when you redistribute. There's evidence of that.

But I've never heard of anyone linking to but not distributing GPL'd code and being sued for it, let alone losing lawsuits over it. That's evidence enough for me that it is a safe thing to do.

Duncan Murdoch



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