R Foundation clarifies position on package licenses

May 1, 2009
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Robert Gentleman, on behalf of the R Foundation, issued today the following statement: We are writing on behalf of the R Foundation, to clarify our position on the licenses under which developers may distribute R packages. Readers should also see FAQ 2.11: this message is not legal advice, which we never offer. Readers should also be aware that besides the R Foundation, R has many other copyright holders, listed in the copyright notices in the source. Each of those copyright holders may have a different opinion on the issues discussed here. We welcome packages that extend the capabilities of R,…

Robert Gentleman, on behalf of the R Foundation, issued today the following statement:

We are writing on behalf of the R Foundation, to clarify our position on the licenses under which developers may distribute R packages. Readers should also see FAQ 2.11: this message is not legal advice, which we never offer.  Readers should also be aware that besides the R Foundation, R has many other copyright holders, listed in the copyright notices in the source.  Each of those copyright holders may have a different opinion on the issues discussed here.

We welcome packages that extend the capabilities of R, and believe that their value to the community is increased if they can be offered with open-source licenses.  At the same time, we have no desire to discourage other license forms that developers feel are required. Of course, such licenses as well as the contents of the package and the way in which it is distributed must respect the rights of the copyright holders and the terms of the R license.

When we think that a package is in violation of these rights, we contact the author directly, and so far package authors have always agreed to comply with our license (or convinced us that they are already in compliance). We have no desire to be involved in legal actions—our interest is in providing good software.  However, everyone should understand that there are conceivable circumstances in which we would be obliged to take action. Our experience to date and the assurances of some fine commercial developers make us optimistic that these circumstances will not arise.

Given that REvolution Computing is a commercial open-source company that produces packages under both open-source and commercial licenses, we’re pleased that the R Foundation has made their position on licenses for R packages clear. 

Speaking for everyone at REvolution, our thanks go to the R Foundation for this statement, and we look forward to continuing our dual roles as both fine commercial developers, and members in good standing of the open-source community.