[Rd] Closed-source non-free ParallelR ?

Andrew Piskorski atp at piskorski.com
Fri Apr 24 17:11:35 CEST 2009

On Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 03:21:45PM -0700, Ian Fellows wrote:
> Assuming that the foundation does not want to deviate from the FSF
> interpretation, there would still be value in clarifying its position
> vis-?-vis how the license applies to R specifically. 
> For example the FSF foundation claims that linking to a library (even in an
> interpreted environment) makes your software derivative, and therefore must

IMO, that's nuts, there is no such thing as "linking" to a library "in
an interpreted environment".  Linking is a well understood operation
in computer programming, and is always done after compilation,
typically by a special program called "the linker", which is usually
ld, the GNU linker.  If you are solely running code that you wrote in
an interpretor provided by another party, you didn't do any linking,

And more to the point, this:

> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "David M Smith" <david at revolution-computing.com>
> Sent: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 4:36 PM
> Subject: Re: [Rd] Closed-source non-free ParallelR ?
> Patrick made all the points that I was going to make (thanks,
> Patrick), but I wanted to reinforce one point that may be the source
> of the confusion: ParallelR is not a modified version of R: ParallelR
> is a suite of ordinary R packages that run on top of the R engine like
> any other package. The R code and Python code in these packages were
> written entirely by REvolution Computing staff (including Patrick),
> and do not contain any code (derived or otherwise) from the R project.

So, as described by David Smith above, the guys at REvolution
Computing ("http://www.revolution-computing.com/") have written some
code of their own code from scratch, code which is not derived from
any of the code in the R distribution.

For the sake of discussion, let's stipulate that David's statement is
in fact entirely true.  (E.g., they did not cheat and plagiarize any R

They happened to choose to write their code ** in the R programming
language **.  They could have written it in Python or C or Lisp
instead, but they chose R.  It's their code, and they can distribute
it any way they want, including selling it for money.

If you do NOT agree with me there, if you instead believe that
REvolution Computing's code is somehow automatically "derived from"
the R Project's code and therefore if distributed, must be distributed
only under the GPL, well then, logically you must believe that *ANY*
code written in the R language is automatically "derived" from R, and
can only be distributed under the GPL.

Any code.  Do you really want to take that position?  Do you REALLY
want to scare away any and ALL commercial users from writing software
in R, for fear that they'll lose control over how they choose to
distribute their own software?

No, I didn't think so.

Besides, R itself is a second (or third?) implementation and dialect
of the S language, originally created at Bell Labs.  So gee, maybe R
is "derived" from Bell Labs S, and R's own GPL license is invalid?  Of
course not, the entire idea is absurd (shades of SCO) - as I hope you

Andrew Piskorski <atp at piskorski.com>

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