[Rd] non-infectious license for R package?

Robert McGehee rmcgehee at walleyetrading.net
Fri Mar 24 15:35:56 CET 2017

I have no direct experience in this regard, but this FAQ seems to answer your question. 

I read this to mean that the answer may be different depending on whether your code links against R libraries or simply uses R as an interpreter.

PS. "Infect" is an interesting choice of words in your email :)

-----Original Message-----
From: R-devel [mailto:r-devel-bounces at r-project.org] On Behalf Of Mario Emmenlauer
Sent: Friday, March 24, 2017 9:53 AM
To: r-devel at r-project.org
Subject: [Rd] non-infectious license for R package?

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 welcome.

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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