[R] License Question

Marc Schwartz marc_schwartz at comcast.net
Mon Oct 27 18:57:42 CET 2008

on 10/27/2008 11:26 AM Duncan Murdoch wrote:
> On 10/27/2008 9:04 AM, Freiberger, Katrin wrote:
>> Dear All,
>> I learned about R during my studies at Cologne University of Applied
>> Science. Now I work at Allianz Dresdner Bauspar AG and I would like to
>> install R here too. Is there any license issues that need to be taken
>> in consideration, any fees to pay by the company? I know there are
>> answers to this in the FAQs but I didn't really understand the legal
>> language. Could you therefore just give me concrete answers?
> R is licensed under the GPL version 2, a pretty common license.  You
> should be able to get legal advice on it internally at your company.  If
> you ask on a forum like this, you'll get lots of advice, but some of it
> will likely be wrong.  I don't want to add to that, so I won't give any
> other than "ask internally".

As Duncan has noted, "concrete" or "absolute" answers relative to what
you can or cannot install on your company's computers will be solely
dependent upon your company's internal software/IT policies and formal
legal guidance.

Most large companies and even many smaller ones, will have such policies
in place and you should seek out your supervisors for guidance and
reference to the specific guidelines.

In addition, immediate colleagues will likely have some idea on this and
can provide at least informal guidance to you, including any
requirements that may be in place specifically for analytic software.
For example, what do your colleagues use and must you be in a position
to share compatible code and data files that may be proprietary?

If so, then you may have only one choice, which is to use whatever they
are using, presuming that it is not R, since you would not be asking if
that were the case.

The GPL license only really comes into play if you want to distribute R
and/or distribute any software that you write that "links" to R. The
latter typically involves compiled languages such as C and FORTRAN.
Should that be a consideration, you have to ensure that the source code
for both are made available, but even that may be a non-issue if the use
of these will be internal only.

As noted in the relevant R FAQ (2.11):

"Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not
covered by this License; they are outside its scope. The act of running
the Program is not restricted, and the output from the Program is
covered only if its contents constitute a work based on the Program."

There are no costs involved for R, other than if you or your company
wish to make a donation to the R Foundation:


which I would certainly recommend.


Marc Schwartz

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