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

From: Stavros Macrakis <>
Date: Wed, 23 Dec 2009 16:00:45 -0500

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.


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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