[Rd] R-base licensing question

Logan Lewis lr at proxc.net
Sun Sep 17 04:42:39 CEST 2006

It is my understanding that R is licensed under the GPL with the 
exception of a few header files for the purposes of linking binary code 
with R under non-GPL licenses.

However, the R-base package itself is licensed under the GPL, as are 
many (but not all) packages in CRAN.  Furthermore, basically any R 
script will use functionality from R-base.  As I understand it, the 
situation isn't clear as to the licensing restrictions on R scripts 
which use R-base (or any other GPL package).  The FSF's FAQ on the 
issue says the following (of course, this is just their 


"[...]Another similar and very common case is to provide libraries with 
the interpreter which are themselves interpreted. For instance, Perl 
comes with many Perl modules, and a Java implementation comes with many 
Java classes. These libraries and the programs that call them are 
always dynamically linked together. A consequence is that if you choose 
to use GPL'd Perl modules or Java classes in your program, you must 
release the program in a GPL-compatible way, regardless of the license 
used in the Perl or Java interpreter that the combined Perl or Java 
program will run on."

Clearly, having R scripts (and basically all R add-on packages) be 
required to have GPL-compatible licenses is not the intent (especially 
considering the LGPLed header files mentioned above).  R's position is 
somewhat unique in having much of the base functionality interpreted.  
In practice, this legal interpretation (IANAL, etc) would require 
essentially all R packages and other R scripts to be licensed in a 
GPL-compatible way.  Is a legal exception in order here?

My apologies if this question is more appropriate for r-users or has 
been answered elsewhere.


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