[R-pkg-devel] license for package

Achim Zeileis Achim.Zeileis at R-project.org
Fri May 29 14:42:19 CEST 2015

On Fri, 29 May 2015, Dirk Eddelbuettel wrote:

> On 29 May 2015 at 11:44, Pieter Eendebak wrote:
> | Dear developers,
> |
> | How can I specify the license for my package when my package includes some
> | code with other licenses (and different copyright holders). In particular:
> |
> | - my package is BSD 2-clause
> | - my packages in includes MPL-2 code (Eigen math library)
> Narrow comment: If you do 'LinkingTo: RcppEigen' you do not need to include
> the Eigen headers yourself.
> | - my package includes some MIT code (different author)
> You cannot relicense code by other people.  Their license stays.

To add one detail to this argument: You may be able to sublicense, though. 
Especially for the permissive MIT/X11 license even "trivial" sublicensing 
is allowed as long as the original copyright is preserved. (IANAL, of 

The OSI had an FAQ at http://ideas.opensource.org/wiki/help/license which 
currently appears to be offline. However, FAQ item 7 was:

Q: Can I always "relicense" BSD licensed-software under a new license?

If you define relicensing as "sublicensing, possibly under additional 
terms and conditions which do not contradict the terms and conditions of 
an original licensor's permissive license", then the answer is generally 
"yes" -- provided you also retain the original copyright information. 
However, strictly speaking, you can only modify the license of a 
"derivative work", and opinions differ on how much change is required to 
qualify as a derivative work. The MIT license and Academic Free License, 
for example, freely allow "trivial" sublicensing (without any other 
changes) as long as the copyright is preserved. Conversely, the Apache 2.0 
license only allows sublicensing for "Derivative Works", which it defines 
as "original works of authorship" -- meaning non-trivial additions. The 
new BSD license, unfortunately, is silent on this point. If you are 
planning to "trivially relicense" BSD software, you are encouraged to 
first check with the copyright holder and/or your own legal counsel.

> You have some choice in how you license _your_ code in the package.
> That said, license "cross-products" have conflicts, but licensing your 
> code under BSD-2 in the context of the GPL-2'ed R / MIT'ed other parts 
> should be fine. See the links in Thomas's post for more.
> Lastly, in many cases [eg when you link against libR], the "aggregate work"
> will be under GPL (>= 2) anyway.  But within the "aggregate work" the code
> you added can be under a different license (as long as it is compatible).
> Dirk
> -- 
> http://dirk.eddelbuettel.com | @eddelbuettel | edd at debian.org
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