[R] What a contortion of the GPL.

A.J. Rossini rossini at blindglobe.net
Fri Sep 8 04:49:19 CEST 2000

>>>>> "PEJ" == Paul E Johnson <pauljohn at ukans.edu> writes:

    PEJ> Concerning this licensing from the Design library:
    >> ### GENERAL DISCLAIMER This program is free software; ### you
    >> can redistribute it and/or modify it under the ### terms of the
    >> GNU General Public License [...]  ### with the exception that
    >> you may not port any code ### in the Design library to R.
    >> [...]  ### In short: you may ### use this code any way you like
    >> other than porting ### any of the code to R, as long as you
    >> don't charge ### money for it, remove this notice, or hold
    >> anyone ### liable for its results.  [...]

    PEJ> This is kind-of amazing, I've never seen anything like it. I
    PEJ> can't imagine a reason why a person would make this
    PEJ> restriction, but I guess there is an interesting story behind
    PEJ> it?  I do think the exception stated violates the GPL itself,
    PEJ> and so a lawyer would argue that this copyright is
    PEJ> effectively meaningless.

No.  It just limits the uses that you are granted by the license, and
in particular, the way it's phrased means that it isn't the GPL.

    PEJ> Now, concerning the terminology "port the code to R", since
    PEJ> I'm not a programmer, I can ask this with a straight face: is
    PEJ> there a wedge between the R distribution and the programs I
    PEJ> write that access R? Obviously, R can't assimilate this code
    PEJ> into the R distribution, but maybe it does not stop a person
    PEJ> from making a personal use of this code in his own programs.
    PEJ> After you finish laughing, nod once for yes and twice for no.

I've had some "interesting" emails with Frank a while back (years?)
over this.  He's got some valid points, and some amusing points...

He's also recently realized the extent and importance that licenses
have in the real world.  

However, the port is fairly major (I know a few people who will remain
nameless who have started it at various times), and the licensing is
still "compatible" as well as legal, in the sense that he wants, which
is the crux of the issue.

I researched this a while back, after getting seriously annoyed by a
few departments/companies, and wanted to release code (ESS :-) under a
"GPL but so-and-so can never use it".  It's legal but definitely in
poor taste.  And I grew up and didn't.

Frank's case is a bit different, he's got reasons, which are based on
experiences he doesn't want to have happen again.  It's not personally
vindictive, at least as far as I know.


A.J. Rossini				Rsrch. Asst. Prof. of Biostatistics
BlindGlobe Networks (home/default)	rossini at blindglobe.net	
UW Biostat/Center for AIDS Research	rossini at u.washington.edu	
FHCRC/SCHARP/HIV Vaccine Trials Net	rossini at scharp.org

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