[Rd] Closed-source non-free ParallelR ?

Stavros Macrakis macrakis at alum.mit.edu
Fri Apr 24 01:21:22 CEST 2009

I said:
>> ...The GPL FAQs are the FSF's interpretation.  The R Foundation is not
>> obliged to have the same interpretation, and of course the FSF cannot
>> enforce licenses given by the R Foundation....

On Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 5:34 PM, Marc Schwartz <marc_schwartz at me.com> wrote:
> Underlying all of your comments seems to be a presumption that the R
> Foundation can disentangle themselves from the FSF vis-a-vis the GPL.
> Keep in mind that it is the FSF that is the copyright holder of the GPL.

Yes. The GPL itself is copyrighted.

> The R Foundation may be the copyright holder to R, but they are distributing
> it under a license which they did not write.

Yes. They chose to use a certain license.

> Thus, I cannot envision any reasonable circumstances under which the R
> Foundation would place themselves in a position of legal risk in deviating
> from the interpretations of the GPL by the FSF. It would be insane legally
> to do so.

I don't follow you here.  If the R Foundation chose not to enforce a
provision of the license in the way that the FSF thinks it ought to be
enforced, what exactly could the FSF do about it?  As far as I can
tell, the GPL does not make the FSF a party in licenses executed under
the GPL.

> The key issue is the lack of case law relative to the GPL and that leaves
> room for interpretation. One MUST therefore give significant weight to the
> interpretations of the FSF as it will likely be the FSF that will be
> involved in any legal disputes over the GPL and its application. You would
> want them on your side, not be fighting them.

You are discussing the courts' interpretation of the GPL, which is not
what I'm questioning here.

Let me give an analogy.  Suppose I buy a piece of property using a
standard form contract written by (and copyright by) my local real
estate agents' association (a common practice).  I then discover that
the seller had done something which according to the real estate
agents' association's interpretation of the contract entitled me to
$10000 damages, but that seems unreasonable to me.  The particular
clause has never been litigated.  You seem to be claiming that (a) the
real estate agents' association's interpretation of the contract has
more weight than my interpretation of it and (b) that they can somehow
oblige me to sue for the $10000 damages.  Now let's say someone else
goes to court and (with the legal support of the real estate agents'
association) prevails on that clause.  Now it is clear that the real
estate agents' association's interpretation can be enforced.  But I
still don't think it's reasonable to enforce it, and still don't
choose to sue.  You are claiming that they somehow can force me to?
Of course, it would be different if a real estate agent were also
party to the contract, and would be owed 20% of the $10000.  But that
is not the case.

> Unfortunately, we have no such archive of case law yet of the GPL. Thus at
> least from a legally enforceable perspective, all is grey and the FSF has to
> be the presumptive leader here.

Whether the FSF's interpretation is legally enforceable or not, it is
the copyright holder who choses whether to sue, not the FSF.


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