[Rd] alternate licensing for package data?

Brian G. Peterson brian at braverock.com
Wed Apr 22 14:32:58 CEST 2015

On Wed, 2015-04-22 at 11:34 +0000, Roger Bivand wrote:
> Martyn Plummer <plummerm <at> iarc.fr> writes:
> > 
> > I think this is covered well by the CRAN repository policy:
> > http://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/policies.html 
> > 
> > The two key license requirements are that: 
> > 1) CRAN must have a perpetual license to distribute the package
> > 2) The package license should be listed here: 
> > https://svn.r-project.org/R/trunk/share/licenses/license.db
> > Packages with licenses not included in that list are generally not
> > accepted.
> > 
> ...
> > 
> > Personally, I would not want to add the extra complexity to a package
> > that is otherwise GPL.
> > 
> > Martyn
> > 
> > On Tue, 2015-04-21 at 19:23 -0400, Ben Bolker wrote:
> > >   Does anyone have speculations about the implications of the GPL for
> > > data included in a package, or more generally for restricting use of data?
> > > 
> ...
> While I agree with Martyn with respect to code, documentation, and
> vignettes, the point Ben raises is relevant and not obvious. Data sets in
> say GLP-licensed packages are on occasion challenged by Debian packagers
> where it isn't obvious that GPL is appropriate. Some spatial packages are
> not accepted for packaging as is because of included data, data that is
> needed to run realistic examples. 
> The problem could be picky packagers, but it is also reasonable that
> well-known example data sets could be licensed differently.
> share/licenses/license.db lists for example CC BY-SA 4.0 as both FOSS and
> extensible but free_and_GPLv3_incompatible. One possibility I examined when
> challenged was to place all such data files in a separate package, for
> example under a CC license accepted by CRAN - I didn't complete the task,
> but understand Ben's question as applying to the same question.

It is also clearly possible to license data files differently than the
package.  GPL is copyleft for compiled code.  R data files are not
compiled/linked into the package, they are included in a tarball or zip
file.  As such, the copyleft provision of GPL doesn't necessarily apply
to non-compiled files in the package collection, and isn't necessarily
intended to apply (the Gnu licenses page suggests not using GPL for

Whether CRAN or Debian packagers would accept a open but mixed code/data
license scheme is not for me to say, but I don't see any impediments
from the licenses themselves.

Brian G. Peterson
Ph: 773-459-4973
IM: bgpbraverock

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