[Rd] non-infectious license for R package?

Mario Emmenlauer mario at emmenlauer.de
Fri Mar 24 14:52:36 CET 2017

Dear All,

I've been following this mailing list for over three years now, but
its just now that I have realized that R is licensed under GPL! :-)

I'm not a lawyer and I don't want lawyer advice, but I'd like to get
your feedback on a license question. My goal is to develop commercial
software for image analysis of biomedical samples that may be used
i.e. in academic institutions. Since I've been an academic software
developer for long, a priority for me is to make the data and tools
easily accessibly for other developers. I have toyed with the idea to
make a (free) R package that can very efficiently fetch data from the
database and push back results for visualization. To clarify: I am
not using R in my software. I'd rather like the institutions of my
customers to have open (internal) access to their data.

Now for the question: To efficiently get the data into R, I assume a
package (possibly in C or C++) is the most reasonable way? If yes,
would such a package automatically be infected by the GPL? If the
package links to (proprietary closed source) libraries to efficiently
access the data, would the libraries in turn be infected?

I'm asking this very naiively because I understand statement [1] in
such a way that it is generally encouraged to make data available in
R. Obviously open source is the preferred way, but my understanding
is that also closed source extensions can add value and may be

I was therefore hoping that somebody has prior experience in this
regard, or can shed further light on statement [1]. Is the R-C-
interface infectious per se, even when data flows only into R, not
vice versa? If its infectious, could just the very core of R be
licensed additionally under a non-infectious license?

Furthermore, can I avoid infecting my full software stack, for example
by making only the package open source under a permissive license? Are
there any guidelines how to legally bridge between the proprietary and
the R-world? I guess other people have tried this before, can someone
share his/her experience?

[1] https://stat.ethz.ch/pipermail/r-devel/2009-May/053248.html

All the best,

    Mario Emmenlauer

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