[Rd] GPL and R Community Policies (Rcpp)

Ravi Varadhan rvaradhan at jhmi.edu
Thu Dec 2 16:36:30 CET 2010

Yes, I agree, Spencer.  The worst thing that can happen is for your
ideas/creations to go completely unnoticed.

Here is what David Hume had to say about how his first philosophical work
(Treatise of Human Nature) was received:

"Never literary attempt was more unfortunate than my Treatise of Human
Nature. It fell dead-born from the press, without reaching such distinction
as even to excite a murmur among the zealots"

So, Dominick - please cheer up and try to find some solace in that your work
has had an influence on the R community!


Ravi Varadhan, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor,
Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology School of Medicine Johns
Hopkins University

Ph. (410) 502-2619
email: rvaradhan at jhmi.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: r-devel-bounces at r-project.org [mailto:r-devel-bounces at r-project.org]
On Behalf Of Spencer Graves
Sent: Thursday, December 02, 2010 10:22 AM
To: Martyn Plummer
Cc: r-devel at r-project.org; rcpp-devel
Subject: Re: [Rd] GPL and R Community Policies (Rcpp)

On 12/2/2010 6:20 AM, Martyn Plummer wrote:
> Dear Dominick,
> The R community does not have a conflict resolution mechanism.  We are
> quite used to disputes that end with one party, usually a recognized
> authority, saying "No, you are objectively, verifiably wrong".   We
> cannot, as a group, deal with anything else.
> Everybody knows that you have an acrimonious relationship with the
> current developers of Rcpp (and if they don't then a cursory look at the
> rcpp-devel archives will confirm this).  The issue of the acknowledgment
> that you are complaining about is merely a symptom of the further
> deterioration of this relationship.   Appeals to authority or public
> opinion are not going to help you obtain satisfaction.
> Having your free software taken up and developed by other people is not
> the worst thing that can happen.  For a free software developer, the
> worst thing that can happen is that they get run over by a proverbial
> bus and their software dies with them.

Somewhere close to the worst is that no one every uses your software.
> Martyn
> On Wed, 2010-12-01 at 13:21 -0500, 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
>> 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
>> 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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>> https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-devel
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Spencer Graves, PE, PhD
President and Chief Operating Officer
Structure Inspection and Monitoring, Inc.
751 Emerson Ct.
San José, CA 95126
ph:  408-655-4567

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