[R] licensing of R packages

Duncan Murdoch murdoch at stats.uwo.ca
Fri Nov 14 18:26:31 CET 2008

On 11/14/2008 12:07 PM, Berwin A Turlach wrote:
> G'day Duncan,
> On Fri, 14 Nov 2008 11:16:35 -0500
> Duncan Murdoch <murdoch at stats.uwo.ca> wrote:
>> On 11/14/2008 11:01 AM, Berwin A Turlach wrote:
>> > But I remember that a situation as you describe was hotly debated on
>> > gnu.misc.discuss in the mid-90s; thus, I am talking obviously GPL 2.
>> > Unfortunately I do not remember which software/company was involved
>> > and how the dispute was solved.  But they did something like you
>> > described:  distributed a binary and asked the user to download
>> > additionally some GPL software and then run both together.  If this
>> > were allowed, the GPL would have a hole in it that you could drive a
>> > truck through. :)
>> If the binary being released had no GPL content in it, then there
>> would be no basis to complain about anything.  I'd guess that the
>> particular case required GPL'd headers in order to compile.  That
>> would be enough to say that the binary includes GPL'd code.
> I am not so sure about whether it is is a matter of including GPL'd
> headers.  After all, if I just want to call some functions from a
> library libXXX and I know what the arguments of those function is, then
> I could write their prototypes into my own non-GPL'd headers.
> The question is really, does the software that I distribute work only
> if it is dynamically linked against libXXX and are there several
> implementations of the functionality that I need from libXXX? 

I'm not a lawyer either, but I'd be surprised to hear that there is any 
legal support for that interpretation.

Duncan Murdoch

If the
> only implementation of libXXX is a GPL'd one, then my software is a
> derivative work of it.  When I compiled it, I must have had the GPL
> version of libXXX on my system.
> To be more specific, looking at my Debian system, I can see that 
> /usr/lib/libXXX might link to /etc/alternatives/libXXX
> and /etc/alternatives/libXXX links to the actual version, which could
> be a commercial library, a GPL'd one or one under some other
> open-software licence. If there are several alternatives for libXXX (for
> the functions that I need), then there is no way of telling what I have
> on my system and what I used when I created my binary which is linked
> to /usr/lib/libXXX.  So I can give my binary to others and tell them
> that they have to get a version of /usr/lib/libXXX; and that one option
> would be to install the GPL'd version obtainable from XYZ.
> But if the only library that implements the functionality that my
> program needs is a GPL'd version, then it is pretty clear
> that /etc/alternatives/libXXX on my machine (if the /etc/alternatives
> set up is used at all) must point to the GPL'd libXXX.  Thus, when I
> created the binary, I created a derivative work of libXXX, whether I
> used its GPL'd headers or not.
> But I guess I should continue to say that IANAL. :)
> Cheers,
> 	Berwin
> PS:  Hope I managed again to not getting the flame-thrower started. :)
> ______________________________________________
> R-help at r-project.org mailing list
> https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-help
> PLEASE do read the posting guide http://www.R-project.org/posting-guide.html
> and provide commented, minimal, self-contained, reproducible code.

More information about the R-help mailing list