R-beta: Re: S Compatibility

Peter Dalgaard BSA p.dalgaard at kubism.ku.dk
Wed Apr 30 14:13:28 CEST 1997

Kurt Hornik <Kurt.Hornik at ci.tuwien.ac.at> writes:

> Or, and that's perhaps the right thing to do, one could ask Richard
> Stallman.  [As an aside, perhaps not everyone is aware that one of the
> issues on the GNU Task List is
>    * An implementation of the S language (an interpreted language used
>      for statistics).
> ]  I am sure he'd be delighted to help ...

If you had had any previous dealings with Stallman, you wouldn't use
the word "delighted" there... A very important figure in the free
software world, but with a somewhat, er, abrasive character. Gets
things done, though. Would be good to tell him about R, so that
someone won't rush into unnecessary work.

What he probably would tell you is that the FSF has a substantial "red
tape" procedure for code contributions to ensure that nobody can claim
to own parts of the code and thereby block the use of the entire
product. You can't put code under GPL if you don't own it, and there
are situations where the employer/university legally owns code that
people write, even if it's during off-duty periods. (Not so in
Denmark. University employees here even own what they do in their work
time. Few people get rich from it, though.)

> I think that roughly speaking, you cannot copyright a language, onlt its
> implementation.  But I may be wrong ...

That's definitely current *practice*, cf. the C language, UNIX command
names and syntax, various shells, and even entry points in a PC BIOS.
The last one got hashed out pretty thoroughly in court.

   O__  ---- Peter Dalgaard             Blegdamsvej 3  
  c/ /'_ --- Dept. of Biostatistics     2200 Cph. N   
 (*) \(*) -- University of Copenhagen   Denmark      Ph: (+45) 35327918
~~~~~~~~~~ - (p.dalgaard at biostat.ku.dk)             FAX: (+45) 35327907
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