[Rd] GPL and R Community Policies (Rcpp)

Adrian Dragulescu adrian_d at eskimo.com
Thu Dec 2 05:29:04 CET 2010


I don't use the Rcpp package but I have been aware of the changes made to 
the package over the years.

I don't see what you are after.  I don't consider the mention about 
your contribution in the authors section disparaging in ANY way.  It seems 
reasonable that as the code base grows, your initial contribution to have 
a smaller and smaller share.  That's all it says.  If you would start 
contributing again to the package development, I'm sure that line can be 
changed.  Romain has gone from 0% to a sizeable share in a quick period 
with some great contributions.  Other authors seem to find a way to 
contribute to the project too.

If it's peer recognition you're after, everybody on this list is already 
aware that you're the original developer of the package.  I personally 
still have a good memory so I don't need another reminder email on this 

I'm sure there are other projects that you can work on, alone or with 
collaborators, that would benefit the R community.


On Wed, 1 Dec 2010, Dominick Samperi wrote:

> This post asks members of the R community, users and developers,
> to comment on issues related to the GNU Public License
> and R community policies more generally.
> The GPL says very little about protecting the the rights of original
> contributors by not disseminating  misleading information about them.
> Indeed, for pragmatic reasons it effectively assumes that original authors
> have no rights regarding their GPL-ed software, and it implicitly leaves
> it up to the community of developers and users to conduct themselves in a
> fair and
> reasonable manner.
> After discussing these matters with Richard Stallman I think
> we more-or-less agreed that a GPL "copyright" notice is nothing
> more than a way to deputise people to serve as protectors of the
> principles of the Free Software Foundation (FSF). It has nothing to
> do with protecting the "rights" or the "ideas" of original
> contributors. There is no peer review, no requirement to
> explain your contributions, and anybody can essentially
> do as they please with the software provided they retain
> the copyright/FSF deputy notice---of course, you can
> always work-around this last restriction by modifying the
> implementation and placing it in a new file, because
> nobody is checking (GPL doesn't require it).
> The GPL is all about "freedom", not responsibility. It is entirely
> focused on "deregulation", not on the protection of intellectual
> property or professional reputations. It serves the useful purpose
> of making great software more widely available, but it does not
> dictate how people should behave and should not be used
> as a moral compass.  (See recent book titled
> "You are not a gadget: a manifesto", a rejoinder to the
> GNU manifesto.)
> As a counterbalance I think the community of developers and
> users need to play a more active role in the evolution of
> shared values and expectations. In this spirit I respectfully request
> that the R community consider the following.
> The author line of the latest release of the R package
> Rcpp (0.8.9) was revised as follows:
> From: "based on code written during 2005 and 2006 by Dominick Samperi"
> To: "a small portion of the code is based on code written during 2005 and
> 2006 by Dominick Samperi"
> As it is highly unusual (and largely impossible) to quantify the relative
> size of the the contribution made by each author of GPL'ed software, this
> has
> effectively changed an acknowledgment into a disparaging remark. It
> is also misleading, because I am the original creator of the Rcpp library
> and package (it was forked by Dirk Eddelbuettel and is now effectively
> part of R core development). Incidentally, the README file for
> Rcpp 0.6.7 shows that my contributions and influence were not
> confined to the period 2005-2006.
> A look at the change history of Rcpp would quickly reveal that to be
> fair other authors of Rcpp (and perhaps other R package authors)
> should have their contributions qualified with "a small portion of the
> code",
> or "administered by", but this is precisely the kind of monitoring that
> inspired Richard Stallman to say we must "chuck the masks" in the
> GNU Manifesto.
> It is obviously a great benefit for the R community to have Rcpp actively
> supported by the R core team. I am very grateful for this. What I do
> have a problem with is the fact that my contributions are disparaged
> by people who have benefited from my past work.
> It seems to me that there are two possible resolutions. First, if my
> name is used in the Rcpp package it should be used to provide fair,
> accurate, and courteous acknowledgement for my past contributions.
> Second, if this is not possible, then my name should not be used at all.
> If the second option is selected then the only place my name should
> appear is in the copyright ("deputy") notices.
> Incidentally, the fact that the word "copyright" is profoundly misleading in
> the context of GPL is not a new idea, and the word "copyleft" is
> sometimes used instead. But copyleft is not used in source files
> because this would unlink GPL from the well-established legal
> framework associated with "copyright", making it more difficult for
> the FSF to enforce its principles (the critical link is provided by
> the copyright holders or "deputies").
> A final clarification: authors of original works do retain a legal
> copyright on  their original work in the sense that they are free
> to modify this work and release it as non-free software (or
> under a different free license), but this has no effect on the
> version that was released under GPL. The latter version and
> all of its progeny belong to the public (or to the FSF from
> a legal point of view).
> Please feel free to express your opinion on these matters.
> Thanks,
> Dominick
> 	[[alternative HTML version deleted]]
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