[Rd] Non-GPL C (or R) inside of a package

Duncan Murdoch murdoch.duncan at gmail.com
Tue Aug 30 21:09:16 CEST 2011

On 30/08/2011 1:50 PM, Jeffrey Ryan wrote:
> R-devel,
> I am interested in creating a package that requires non-GPL'd (commercial) C
> code to work.  In essence it is a single .c file with no use of R headers
> (all .C callable functions).  For example's sake:
>    1 #include<stdio.h>
>    2
>    3 void test (int *a) {
>    4   *a = 101;
>    5 }
> The package isn't destined for CRAN, and I realize that this isn't R-legal,
> but looking for some expert advice from anyone else who may have encountered
> this previously.
> The question is whether or not one can distribute code that has multiple
> licenses (.c or individual .R files), including some that are not
> GPL-compatible, as a tar.gz (or binary) file.  i.e., does the packaging
> process [R CMD ***] cause everything to become GPL, as we are using R itself
> to build the package?
I can only say that the answer to the last question is "no":  the author 
gets to choose the license for what s/he wrote.  The fact that you used 
R to package it is irrelevant.  (Some extremists will disagree, and say 
that because your package is intended to "link" to R, it must be 
licensed compatibly with the GPL if you distribute it.  I don't think 
that's true.)

If you are intending to distribute this file you are putting together, 
you'll probably want to consult someone who knows the legalities as to 
whether you can legally link to the commercial library...

Duncan Murdoch

> I can of course provide the C libs in this case as a separate install, but
> that adds complexity to the overall build and install process.
> Thanks,
> Jeff

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