[R-pkg-devel] Licensing of an R package

Chris Brien Chris.Brien at unisa.edu.au
Fri Jan 19 11:28:28 CET 2018

Hi Barry,

Ideally, I would prefer that my package remain open source.

However, I have considered MIT and the two BSD licenses and I understand that they are permissive. I have not ruled out using one of them.

The thing about those licenses is that I have not been able to find anything on the web about linking a proprietary and free package under those licenses. The information is not nearly as comprehensive as it is for GPL licenses.

The problem as I see it is that they are GPL compatible and so I do not understand how that can be the case and that you can apply the licence in my situation.

I agree that to write your own license is rather daunting. I would much prefer to use a pre-existing license.

Thanks for your comments.



From: b.rowlingson at gmail.com [mailto:b.rowlingson at gmail.com] On Behalf Of Barry Rowlingson
Sent: Friday, 19 January 2018 8:00 PM
To: Chris Brien
Cc: r-package-devel at r-project.org
Subject: Re: [R-pkg-devel] Licensing of an R package


 you've not said what *you* would like the license for your software to do. You could release the software under a "public domain", "no rights reserved" style license, and then if people want to link it with proprietary materials then nothing can stop them. But it wouldn't stop people commercialising (what was) your code, modifying it, re-releasing it as binary and without source, and so on.

 Once you've decided which things you want to permit or restrict under your license then you can see if there's a pre-existing one that matches your requirements, or whether you have to write one yourself! Good luck with that option!

 https://opensource.org/license/MIT is one of the more permissive open source licenses - check the others on there for more info.


On Fri, Jan 19, 2018 at 8:31 AM, Chris Brien <Chris.Brien at unisa.edu.au<mailto:Chris.Brien at unisa.edu.au>> wrote:
Dear list members,

I have come to realize that my understanding of free software licensing was somewhat naïve. The problem is that I now find that, in spite of spending quite a bit of time reading about various licenses on the web, I have been unable to identify a suitable license for the situation that I have with one of my packages.

I am solely responsible for the development of my package, `foo' say. However, most functions in `foo' call functions from a proprietary package, `bar' say , the latter not being available from an online software repository and consisting of R functions that call routines in a library. That is, `foo' enhances `bar'.

I had thought that a GPL licence was appropriate because (1) `foo' is free software and (ii) I do not distribute `bar' with `foo'. That is, I am distributing only free software.  However, I have come to understand that this is not the case because a free software package linked with a proprietary package does not satisfy the requirements to be GPL.

I have found it difficult to work out a license that might cover my package because much of the discussion online covers cases that are the opposite of mine i.e. cases where `foo' is proprietary and `bar' is freeware. I can appreciate why this needs to be avoided.

I can also understand that a disadvantage of what I am doing is that it tends to entrench the use of such software. While I agree that it is desirable that `bar' be replaced with free software, unfortunately `bar' has functionality that is currently infeasible to replace with free software. At least I am not profiting from the enhancements that I have made.

I am hoping that someone more experienced in software development and licensing issues can suggest a license type that might be suitable for `foo' such that at least the enhancements that it incorporates remain `free'?


  Chris Brien

Adjunct Senior Lecturer in Statistics
Phenomics and Bioinformatics Research Centre
University of South Australia
GPO Box 2471
ADELAIDE  5001  South Australia
Phone:  +61 8 8302 5535<tel:%2B61%208%208302%205535>   Fax:  +61 8 8302 5785<tel:%2B61%208%208302%205785>
Email:   Chris.Brien at unisa.edu.au<mailto:Chris.Brien at unisa.edu.au>
WEB page:  <http://people.unisa.edu.au/Chris.Brien>
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