[Rd] Non-free packages in R-Forge

Kevin R. Coombes kevin.r.coombes at gmail.com
Fri Nov 18 19:52:12 CET 2011

You are, of course, missing the obvious solution, which is to do nothing.

The "endorsement" of a non-free project seems to me to reside only in 
your imagination.  The primary product produced by "The R Project for 
Statistical Computing" is the statistical software environment R, which 
is released under the GPL.  It is free software under anyone's 
definition.  One can safely infer that members of the R Project clearly 
endorse the goals of the GNU Project (as you can see, for example, from 
the fact that the only hyperlinks from the "What is R?" web page point 
to FSF or GNU).  I think that there is no chance that members of the R 
project would voluntarily "sever its ties with GNU" over this issue.

It's also not clear that there is any formal process for something 
becoming "a GNU project". If there were, you could then go to the GNU 
organization or to FSF and convince them to take some action to force 
the R project to stop calling itself a GNU project.  (I strongly suspect 
that there are neither copyright nor trademark nor other enforceable 
agreements to cause anything to happen in that regard.)

Now, the web site for the R project does point from its "related 
projects" page to R-Forge as a framework where packages that work with R 
can be developed.  It also displays prominent links to CRAN and to 
Bioconductor as locations where users can obtain R packages.  In that 
sense, I would be willing to agree that the R project "endorses" 
R-Rorge, CRAN, and Bioconductor.

However, I strongly object to the idea that this includes an endorsement 
of all (or even *any*) of the packages developed or hosted on those 
three other sites.  There are plenty of R packages in all of those 
locations that are provided under licenses other than GPL, LGPL, or 
PAL.  Some of those licenses are clearly non-free (in both the liberty 
and dollar senses).

For example, I use the mclust package (available from CRAN) all the 
time.  The license for this package requires an annual payment of a 
licensing fee for non-academic use, which limits modification and 
redistribution.  I have developed my own packages that depend on 
mclust.  The code that I wrote is available under the Perl Artistic 
License.  But if anyone wants to use my pacakge, they still have to 
conform to the terms of use defined by the license for mclust, on which 
my package depends.  I don't think that the University of Washington 
shoudl be prevented from specifying the license terms it wants for 
mclust.  And I don't think users (academic or otherwise) would get any 
beenfits if mclust was prevented from being made available through CRAN.

As far as I can tell, the situation with mclust is directly analogous to 
the situation you are complaining about with MOSEK being hosted at R-Forge.

Here's my suggestion. Stop trying to prevent users who want to talk to 
MOSEK from R from getting a package that will accomplish that task. Your 
real problem seems to be that MOSEK is not free.  So do what Stallman 
did when he objected to the fact that UNIX was not free. (Or MOTIF. Or 
lots of other stuff.) Get some developers together, work in a clean 
environment where they won't violate any copyright in the existing code, 
and develop a free alternative.


On 11/18/2011 12:00 PM, Jordi Gutiérrez Hermoso wrote:
> I'm sorry about the tone of my previous email. Let me try again in a
> cleaner way.
> The problem is: R or the organisation behind R via its infrastructure
> seems to be endorsing R-Forge, and R-Forge is hosting at least one
> project whose sole purpose is to link R with non-free software. This
> looks like endorsement of non-free software, which is contrary to the
> aims of the GNU project, of which R today claims to be a part.
> There are several solutions, but the only workable ones I see are to
> either sever ties with the GNU project, clearly remove the endorsement
> of the non-free project, or to make the non-free project free. Of
> these, it is my sincere hope that the last one happens.
> That is all.
> - Jordi G. H.
> ______________________________________________
> R-devel at r-project.org mailing list
> https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-devel

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