R-beta: Re: S Compatibility

Ross Ihaka ihaka at stat.auckland.ac.nz
Thu May 1 05:17:12 CEST 1997

Peter Dalgaard writes:
 > 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.
I did mention it to someone at FSF years ago.  Maybe I should again.

 > 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.)

This touches a rather sore point with me.  The University here has
brought in a new contract which has some diabolical aspects to it.

Basically they require that you inform them if you develop a piece of
software of "commercial significance".  They will then decide if it is
to be commercialized and whether you will receive any of the benefits
which result. [ This condition is not applied to to works involving
the written word, works of art or music. A sweetheart deal for the old

I regard this as a threat to the free status of R (and academic
freedom in general) and so I have refused to sign.  Fortunately the
law of the land here says that my old contract stays valid until I
agree to a new contract.  I hand wrote my "old" contract and it says
that they have no claim on anything I do.  I got to do this after a
senior administrator didn't get round to responding to my enquiries
about the University's intellectual property policy and my salary was
stopped.  The mid-level administrators were so embarrased that this
had happened that they let me scribble some extra clauses on the

On the other hand, I can't expect a pay increase before hell freezes
over (I've missed two so far).  Free software ain't so free for some
of us.  Sigh.

It probably won't be a problem long-term.  I expect to be dismissed
for insubordination and general shit-stirring in the not too distant
future anyway ;-).

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