[R-pkg-devel] GPL + other licence

Hadley Wickham h.wickham at gmail.com
Tue Apr 10 15:57:52 CEST 2018

On Tue, Apr 10, 2018 at 2:45 AM, Kasper Daniel Hansen
<kasperdanielhansen at gmail.com> wrote:
> There are 3 solutions.  (1) You (get permission) to change the library to
> GPL.  (2) You get permission to change the license of the R code to
> whatever license the library is released under.  (3) you split the package.

For completeness: (4) you find a license that is compatible with both
the license of QHull and the license of the existing R package.

> You have investigated (1) and it does not work.  I would suggest thinking
> about (2) provided the license of the library is decent.  This is what we
> did with Rgraphviz some years ago; Graphviz itself is licensed under the
> Eclipse public license and there was no way I could get a company to change
> the license of that code.
> I would do whatever I can to avoid splitting the package.
> Best,
> Kasper
> On Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 8:44 PM, David C Sterratt <david.c.sterratt at ed.ac.uk>
> wrote:
>> Dear all,
>> I'd appreciate help with a licence conundrum I have with the geometry
>> package (https://davidcsterratt.github.io/geometry/) that I maintain.
>> The geometry package contains some functions (e.g. convhulln(),
>> delaunayn()) that wrap the Qhull library (http://www.qhull.org), which
>> has its own, non-GPL, licence. The geometry package includes this source
>> code, and wraps it in C files that have GPL licence headers.
>> The geometry package also has functions that are not derived from Qhull
>> code and which are licensed under GPL, including a number of functions
>> that are ports of the Matlab distmesh package, and some other useful
>> functions to do with triangulation and coordinate systems (e.g.
>> tsearch() and cart2bary()).
>> I inherited this situation when I took over maintaining the package 8
>> years ago, though I have added functions to both Qhull-derived and GPL
>> categories.
>> In October last year I submitted the latest version of the geometry
>> package, which adds quite a bit of useful functionality:
>> https://github.com/davidcsterratt/geometry/blob/master/pkg/NEWS
>> I received the following response from the CRAN maintainers:
>>   For the license. It is CRAN policy that a package has to have a single
>>   license. Can you manage to convince all copyright hoders (e.g. of
>>   Qhull) to relicense under GPL?
>> I tried persuading the author of Qhull. He replied:
>>   There's only one license and that's the one included with the code
>>   (COPYING.txt). Several years ago, I tried to clarify the license with
>>   the Univ. of Minn. but had no success. So I think the best approach is
>>   to keep the original license as is. It has not been an issue so far.
>> At the same time as I wrote to the Qhull maintainer, I wrote to the CRAN
>> maintainers:
>>   I have written to the Qhull maintainer, but I doubt he will want to
>>   change the license, since Qhull is used in proprietary software such
>>   as MATLAB. Assuming this is the case, we'll have to create a new
>>   package - I would need help with managing the change for dependent
>>   packages.
>> The CRAN maintainers replied:
>>   Please try to find out how this can work.
>> In principle I could create a package containing only the functions
>> derived from Qhull (but still with GPL headers in the wrapper C files,
>> see e.g.,
>> https://github.com/davidcsterratt/geometry/blob/
>> master/pkg/src/Rconvhulln.c
>> But wouldn't this package still have to have two licenses, due to the
>> GPL headers?
>> I don't want to start on any package splitting without having a plan
>> agreed that I know will be OK for CRAN. It would be quite a bit of work,
>> as there are a number of packages that depend on geometry, so I would
>> have to check all the revdeps for functions that they call in the
>> geometry package. I would have to then perhaps write wrapper functions
>> in the geometry package to make sure any functions moved to a new
>> package still worked when called from revdeps.
>> I know the CRAN maintainers are busy, so any help from the list would be
>> much appreciated.
>> Best wishes,
>> David.
>> --
>> David C Sterratt, Senior Research Associate
>> Institute for Adaptive and Neural Computation, School of Informatics
>> University of Edinburgh, 10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB, Scotland,
>> UK
>> http://homepages.inf.ed.ac.uk/sterratt - tel: +44 131 651 1739
>> --
>> The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
>> Scotland, with registration number SC005336.
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