Re: [R] How can you buy R? [Broadcast]

From: Liaw, Andy <>
Date: Sat 20 May 2006 - 23:24:45 EST

My understanding is that if a licensee wants to redistribute GPL code (or work derived from GPL code), then it has to be done under GPL as well, meaning the person must make it known to users that they can have access to the source code if so desired, and they can do anything they want with that code (including selling), but GPL must remain in force for further redistribution.  

FSF used to sell Emacs source code on tape for around $200, and I believe Richard Stallman was able to get quite a bit of support through that channel. The idea of having R Foundation selling CDs had come up before. Unfortunately I believe the R Foundation does not have the manpower or resource to do that.  

I do not believe code written in a GPL language is automatically GPL'ed. To me a language (or, more specifically, a "system" if you will) is not unlike an OS. There are plenty of commercial software for Linux. I believe those people must feel quite confident that they are not covered (or "infected"?) by GPL.  

Just my $0.02...  


From: on behalf of Spencer Graves Sent: Fri 5/19/2006 6:43 PM
Cc:;; Damien Joly Subject: Re: [R] How can you buy R? [Broadcast]

          I'd like to know what people think is the meaning of section 2.b of
the GPL (

          "You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License."

          After section 2.c, the GPL continues, "If identifiable sections of

that work are not derived from the Program, and can be reasonably considered independent and separate works in themselves, then this License, and its terms, do not apply to those sections when you distribute them as separate works."

          I'm not an attorney, but it would seem to me any code written in R is
arguably "derived from" R. Even if R code were not "derived from" R, I don't see how it could "reasonably be considered independent" of R. If my interpretation is correct, then any claim by an R package developer to a license more restrictive than GPL would not be enforceable; such claim would seem to violate the spirit, intent, and letter of the GPL.

          A "boundary" case is provided by the "glmmADMB" package. As I read
the GPL, this package must operate under GPL. This means that if anyone wants their source code, the authors of that package are required to give it to them. I just noticed that the version of "glmmADMB" that I downloaded 3/14/2006 does NOT contain a "src" subdirectory. This surprises me, given the comment on " <> "
that "we generally do not accept submissions of precompiled binaries". That is, however, not required by the GPL, as I understand it. Rather, it seems to say that Otter Research ( <> ), who
distribute more general "AD Model Builder" software, could be required to make freely available source code for all the binaries they use. This should be fairly easy for them, because their "AD Model Builder" produces C++ code, which they could easily include in a "src" subdirectory of their package. The GPL would NOT require them to distribute source code for the "AD Model Builder" itself, since that has an independent existence.

          If anyone has any evidence contradicting the above, I'd like to know.

          Best Wishes, 
          Spencer Graves 

Marc Schwartz (via MN) wrote:
> On Fri, 2006-05-19 at 17:59 -0300, Rogerio Porto wrote:

>> While reading the various answers, I've remembered that 
>> the juridic part can't be that so simple. If I'm not fogeting 
>> something, there are some packages in R that has a more 
>> restrictive licence than GPL. 
>> HTH, 
>> Rogerio. 

> Any CRAN packages (or other R packages not on CRAN) that have
> "non-commercial" use restrictions, likely would not be able to be used
> by the OP anyway, even prior to this new policy.
> So I suspect that this would be a non-issue.
> If Damien's employer is willing to accept the GPL license (probably the
> most significant issue) and feels the need to pay for "something", they
> could make an appropriate donation to the R Foundation. Perhaps even
> secure a little PR benefit for having done so.
> Is Damien's employer allowing the use of Firefox instead of IE?
> If so, the precedent within the confines of the policy has been set
> already. Firefox is GPL, free and no CD.
> There is an awful lot of "commercial" software out there than can be
> purchased online, "properly licensed" and downloaded, without the need
> for a physical CD. Anti-virus software perhaps being the most notable
> example.
> So:
> License: GPL
> CD: Don't need one
> Purchase: Donation to the R Foundation
> Being able to use R: Priceless
> :-)
> HTH,
> Marc Schwartz
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