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

Barry Rowlingson b.rowlingson at lancaster.ac.uk
Fri Jan 19 12:22:50 CET 2018

On Fri, Jan 19, 2018 at 10:28 AM, Chris Brien <Chris.Brien at unisa.edu.au>

> 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.
>     You're not distributing the proprietary package, and the MIT license
doesn't restrict use in any way, including linking with proprietary
software. So you can MIT-license your code and it remains open source, can
link with EvilCorps `bar` package, and it guarantees your (c) notice and
the MIT license will be preserved on copies of your code (it can't be
re-licensed under a different license).

> 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.
GPL-compatible means you can put MIT-license code together with GPL-license
code and distribute the combination *under the GPL license*. This doesn't
work the other way round - you can't bring GPL-licensed code into an
MIT-license codebase and distribute that under MIT-license!

Interestingly GNU doesn't seem to acknowledge the existence of a "MIT
License" although OSI does. To GNU, the "MIT LIcense" is a number of
possible licenses, and this might be why CRAN insist on inclusion of the
license file itself with anything branded "MIT License":



> 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.
> Cheers,
>   Chris
> 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
> Chris,
>  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.
> Barry
> 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'?
> Cheers,
>   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>
> CRICOS No 00121B
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