[Rd] Copyright issues question

Philippe Grosjean phgrosjean at sciviews.org
Wed Jun 16 12:08:39 CEST 2004

>> Eric Lecoutre <lecoutre at stat.ucl.ac.be> writes:
>> >
>> > What sort of exact problems can we expect to have? Should we consider
>> > to propose this as Open Source and not GPL? Do we have to obtain the
>> > agreement of the R Core Team?

Thomas Lumley answered:

>It might also be worth pointing out that the R Core Team's agreement is
>neither necessary nor sufficient.  The GPL permits whatever it permits,
>and R as it stands is covered by the GPL, rather than by what the
>developers would like on a case-by-case basis.

>	-thomas

OK, that is probably true. However, in GPL 2, you have:

10. If you wish to incorporate parts of the Program into other free
programs whose distribution conditions are different, write to the author
to ask for permission.

I think I must clarify the context here. I already think about copyright
aspects since a while, as the maintainer of the R GUI Projects web site.
Indeed, I think several programs violate GPL, because they place a different
(G)UI on top of R, and claim for a different, incompatible license.
Recently, I have reworked a little bit the R GUI Projects web site in such a
way that I eliminated links, and send mails to authors of obviously
offending programs, namely, Brodgar and Statistical Lab. You find no link to
these programs any more in R GUI Projects. I hope thay will resolve the
conflicts as soon as possible.

However, there are other programs whose status is not clear for me. I think
that GUIs and Plugins are derivatives and the contaminent character of GPL
applies to them. The following quote from the document pointed by Peter
Dalgaard, reinforces my conviction
(http://www.soberit.hut.fi/~msvalima/gpl_derivative.pdf, p. 12):

4.4 Plug-Ins and Device Drivers
Consider next a situation where one develops a plug-in or device driver to a
under GPL. Is such a plug-in a derivative work of the main program and,
hence, under GPL? FSF FAQ answers with an interpretation criteria based on
substance and form. It states:
"If the program dynamically links plug-ins, and they make function calls
to each other and share data structures, we believe they form a single pro-
gram, so plug-ins must be treated as extensions to the main program. This
means they must be released under the GPL ."

Of course, it is lawyers that decide, not me, or us!!! However, I am
wondering if the status of any plugin extension to commercial software like
Excel with GPL programs is valid. I think about RxlCommander, but also,
RExcel. In a sense, these programs are totally against the GPL philosophy.
Basically, we provide to a commercial software (Microsoft Excel), new
functionnalities that derive from a GPL work (R). It is clear that, if
people at Microsoft developped these plugins, they would be havily blamed.
Now, if someone else write and distribute them... what does it changes? The
result is still the same: to use GPL software (R) to provide additionnal
features to a commercial software (Microsoft Excel), and the later could
possibly benefit from these additionnal features to reinforce its dominancy
(let's consider the speculative situation where R versus Excel plugins are
so much appreciated and used that they have a siginificant impact in the
future). This is potentially a serious breach in the GPL philosophy that
allows, indirectly, to reuse features from a GPL program to supplement a
commercial one. Philosophically speaking, I am against such a practice.
However, this is, and should remain my own opinion... Now, what about legal
aspects here?


Philippe Grosjean

P.S.: I am also concerned about JGR, because it is also not GPL. Any

 ) ) ) ) )
( ( ( ( (   Prof. Philippe Grosjean
\  ___   )
 \/ECO\ (   Numerical Ecology of Aquatic Systems
 /\___/  )  Mons-Hainaut University, Pentagone
/ ___  /(   8, Av. du Champ de Mars, 7000 Mons, Belgium
 /NUM\/  )
 \___/\ (   phone: +, fax: +
       \ )  email: Philippe.Grosjean at umh.ac.be
 ) ) ) ) )  SciViews project coordinator (http://www.sciviews.org)
( ( ( ( (

More information about the R-devel mailing list