[Rd] Implications of a Dependency on a GPLed Package

S Ellison S.Ellison at LGCGroup.com
Fri Jan 25 23:40:46 CET 2013

> 1. If I develop and distribute an R package which depends on another package that is released under the GPL, I have to release my package in a GPL-compatible way.
It is probably worth remembering that declaring a 'dependency' of package foo on package bar in the R inter-package sense and then distributing package foo does not of itself constitute distribution, propagation or conveying of package bar. 

And if a user of non-gpl  code you have distributed  downloads gpl code themselves,  that would not constitute gpl-forbidden distribution on your part even if they needed to do so to run your code - for the simple reason that you have not distributed the gpl code as part of your software. Nor does the gpl prevent a user from doing that.

> 2. Given that R itself is distributed as a set of base packages (released under the GPL), and a distinction between making use of the R "language" and making use of functionality provided by the base packages seem impossible, the above section could also imply that it is not possible at all to release R code under a license that is not GPL-compatible.

That would be nonsense, as I understand matters. You can distribute R (or any other) code under any license you like provided it does not include GPL'd code (though you can even include gpl'd code if you have due permission - and thereby a different license - from the copyright holder. Assuming you can find them, of course). 
Besides, the language is S. The R software is just a system that implements it. The distinction seems pretty clear to me.

Caveat: I'm a chemist, and the above is an opinion. Like the man said, if yer needs advice on a point of law, yer should get yerself a lawyer. 

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