Re: [Rd] Rcpp: Clarifying the meaning of GPL?

From: Henrik Bengtsson <>
Date: Wed, 23 Dec 2009 13:21:05 -0800

I guess one problem is who is in charge of the name Rcpp on CRAN. For instance, can I "fork" of yet another version of Rcpp (or any other CRAN package) and submit it to CRAN? Can the original author submit a completely different Rcpp package breaking all the additions made by the new contributors? I don't think the GPL answers those questions, but maybe there is something on the ownership to the (original) "title/label/name/identifier" of a GPL artifact.

My $.02


On Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 1:00 PM, Stavros Macrakis <> wrote:
> The central purpose of the GPL license is precisely to allow and indeed
> encourage the behavior your are criticizing.  In particular, when you
> release software under the GPL, you are *explicitly* giving recipients of
> the software the right to modify it pretty much in any way (trivial or
> radical) they please and redistribute it by any means they choose (as long
> as they redistribute source with binary and maintain the legal notices).
> There is no legal or ethical obligation to consult the original author in
> any way, or even to acknowledge the original author other than by
> maintaining his or her copyright notice.  The only legal obligation is to
> maintain the copyright notice and the GPL license itself and to include a
> notice that the software has been modified (GPL3 section 5a).
> This is not an accident.  The promulgators of the GPL, the FSF, believe that
> these are the conditions under which software is best distributed -- that
> implementors should be free to combine bits and pieces of software from a
> variety of GPL-compatible licenses with no fear of violating any of their
> licenses.
> Obviously these legal and ethical conditions are quite different from those
> which prevail in academic publishing, and if you don't like them, you should
> be releasing your software under a different license -- which will probably
> have the effect of making your software less useful to the community and
> therefore less widely known and used.
>               -s
> On Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 11:05 AM, Dominick Samperi
> <>wrote:
>> In my view what has happened is not much different from a situation where I
>> place my
>> name as co-author on a research paper that you have created, without your
>> permission,
>> after making a few small edits that you may not agree with. Furthermore, if
>> you complain
>> I simply present the results (at conferences) as my own without mentioning
>> your name.
>> Is this just a dispute between implementers?
>> Stavros Macrakis wrote:
>>  On Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 12:27 AM, Dominick Samperi <
>>> <>> wrote:
>>>    Stavros Macrakis wrote:
>>>        That said, as a matter of courtesy and clarity, I'd think that
>>>        a fork should use a different name.
>>>    Yes, the point is that this is not a legal or technical matter, it
>>>    is a matter of professional courtesy.
>>>    I take this as one vote for the name change.
>>> The naming and maintenance history of this package (or these packages:
>>> Rcpp and RcppTemplate) appears to be complicated, and I have no interest in
>>> becoming an arbitrator or voter in what is a dispute between you and other
>>> implementers.
>>>    On US copyright law, this should not be confused with "copyright"
>>>    notices that appear in GPL
>>>    source code. Remember that these are really "copyleft" notices,
>>>    and copyleft is designed to
>>>    protect the rights of copiers, not original contributors.
>>> The copyright notice is a correct and legally valid copyright notice.  The
>>> GPL (copyleft) is the copyright *license*.  Like all licenses, it defines
>>> the relationship between authors and copiers.  The GPL explicitly avoided
>>> the so-called "obnoxious BSD advertising clause", which has requirements
>>> about giving credit.
>>>              -s
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