[Rd] About ParallelR and licensing of packages

Danese Cooper danese at revolution-computing.com
Fri Apr 24 20:54:44 CEST 2009

Howdy all...
Reading with interest the thread(s) about REvolution, package
licensing and the requirements of the GPL.

First of all, let me introduce myself .  I joined REvolution Computing
in February, after working for nearly 4 years for Intel as an open
source strategist and before that for 6 years at Sun, where I
established the first corporate open source programs office.  I'm a
Member of the Apache Software Foundation and serve on a Special
Advisory Board for Mozilla.org.  I'm also a long-time supporter of the
Free Software Foundation and have served on the board of the Open
Source Initiative since 2001.  I joined REvolution partly to help them
sort out their open source strategy.

So presumably I know a little bit about licensing.

Part of why I joined REvolution was because it was so clear that they
*really* care about being members in good standing of the R community,
and had already given back several packages and 100% of their mods to
Core R.  In general REvolution thinks of its self as a "commercial
open source" company, which means that they hope to do well while
doing good...by adding needed functionality and reach to R,
professionalizing support and training for R and in general getting a
bigger slice by making the whole R pizza bigger.

My first interview question to REvolution's CEO was the same one all
of you have been asking.  "Have you checked with legal counsel about
your package licensing strategy?" and the answer was "Of course we
have."..."Who are your lawyers?" was my next question and the answer
was "Well, we asked the Software Freedom Law Center ."  What the SFLC
essentially said was that packages designed to run through the R
interpreter don't necessarily have to be licensed under the GPL.
Obviously, changes to Core R do need to be under GPL. and REvolution
has always done that.

The R community has a long-standing practice of allowing packages to
be distributed in CRAN under licenses other than the GPL.  What really
influences package licensing is market forces.  If REvolution or XL
Solutions or any other company in the R space creates an innovative
commercial package that everybody loves, its only a matter of time
until that package will be imitated with an open source package, so
there is a brief commercial life for any R package.  That said,
REvolution is working that commercial innovation space, while seeding
key packages into open source all the time.  So there is a version of
NWS (the guts of ParallelR) available now under GPL.  Internal
discussions about when to open other packages relating to ParallelR
are currently underway.

I'm satisfied that REvolution is very aware of and has been thinking
about licensing questions since their beginning and that we will
continue to work as a member of the larger R community to expand the
reach and utility of R.

Danese Cooper
Open Source Diva
REvolution Computing
One Century Tower | 265 Church Street, Suite 1006
New Haven, CT  06510
P: 408-348-8000 | www.revolution-computing.com

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