[Rcpp-devel] [Rd] GPL and R Community Policies (Rcpp)

Douglas Bates bates at stat.wisc.edu
Wed Dec 1 20:53:20 CET 2010

Against my better judgement I will try to correct a misconception.  I
fear that my message will only fan the flames but  I also think that
if we are to be subjected to long, drawn out, personal attacks on this
subject then the readers of this list are entitled to facts instead of

On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 1:06 PM, Dominick Samperi <djsamperi at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 1:46 PM, Gavin Simpson <gavin.simpson at ucl.ac.uk>
> wrote:
>> On Wed, 2010-12-01 at 13:21 -0500, Dominick Samperi wrote:
>> > This post asks members of the R community, users and developers,
>> > to comment on issues related to the GNU Public License
>> > and R community policies more generally.
>> >
>> <snip/>
>> > As a counterbalance I think the community of developers and
>> > users need to play a more active role in the evolution of
>> > shared values and expectations. In this spirit I respectfully request
>> > that the R community consider the following.
>> I don't think there is much relevance /here/ (R-devel) to your spat with
>> the Rcpp developers. You released the package under a permissive licence
>> and people took up its development after it lay dormant for a long time.
>> As I understand it Rcpp has moved on leaps and bounds of late and the
>> current code base is quite well removed from your original. That being
>> so, the line you quote would seem to be a fair reflection of the current
>> state of the package.
>> I do not read into it anything disparaging and would suggest that it is
>> your own personal displeasure at the way your work has been taken and
>> improved/altered that is colouring your views on this particular point.
>> Also, I wasn't aware that Rcpp was now part of R Core Development. I was
>> aware that Rcpp now uses some of the new reference class code added in
>> the latest version of R. If I have missed something, great. The Rcpp
>> stuff I have seen recently looks great and I see it being used in
>> several packages.
> Obviously members of the R core team have been added to the author
> list. I think this answers your question.

What you say (members of the R core development team are listed as
contributors to the current Rcpp package) is true.  Your inference
that Rcpp is now part of R Core Development is not.  John Chambers and
I are participating in the development of Rcpp as individuals, not on
behalf of R Core.

Making wild accusations based on misconceptions will only serve to
discredit you.

If I were in your position I would reflect upon the fact that you have
been making strong assertions with respect to the history and future
of Rcpp for many months and very few, if any, R developers have
stepped forward in support of your claims.

> I do not deny that great progress has been made, but that does not
> give the developers the right to impugn my work. Are you saying it
> is proper to deprecate the contribution of past authors, and that
> the extent of this deprecation should be proportional to the amount
> of progress made? Should we add this to the list of R community
> policies? Are all users in agreement with this policy?
> As I said, an easy resolution is simply to not refer to my
> name in the Rcpp package at all.
>> Please grind this particular axe elsewhere.
>> All the best,
>> Gavin
>> > The author line of the latest release of the R package
>> > Rcpp (0.8.9) was revised as follows:
>> >
>> > From: "based on code written during 2005 and 2006 by Dominick Samperi"
>> >
>> > To: "a small portion of the code is based on code written during 2005
>> > and
>> > 2006 by Dominick Samperi"
>> >
>> > As it is highly unusual (and largely impossible) to quantify the
>> > relative
>> > size of the the contribution made by each author of GPL'ed software,
>> > this
>> > has
>> > effectively changed an acknowledgment into a disparaging remark. It
>> > is also misleading, because I am the original creator of the Rcpp
>> > library
>> > and package (it was forked by Dirk Eddelbuettel and is now effectively
>> > part of R core development). Incidentally, the README file for
>> > Rcpp 0.6.7 shows that my contributions and influence were not
>> > confined to the period 2005-2006.
>> >
>> > A look at the change history of Rcpp would quickly reveal that to be
>> > fair other authors of Rcpp (and perhaps other R package authors)
>> > should have their contributions qualified with "a small portion of the
>> > code",
>> > or "administered by", but this is precisely the kind of monitoring that
>> > inspired Richard Stallman to say we must "chuck the masks" in the
>> > GNU Manifesto.
>> >
>> > It is obviously a great benefit for the R community to have Rcpp
>> > actively
>> > supported by the R core team. I am very grateful for this. What I do
>> > have a problem with is the fact that my contributions are disparaged
>> > by people who have benefited from my past work.
>> >
>> > It seems to me that there are two possible resolutions. First, if my
>> > name is used in the Rcpp package it should be used to provide fair,
>> > accurate, and courteous acknowledgement for my past contributions.
>> > Second, if this is not possible, then my name should not be used at all.
>> > If the second option is selected then the only place my name should
>> > appear is in the copyright ("deputy") notices.
>> >
>> > Incidentally, the fact that the word "copyright" is profoundly
>> > misleading in
>> > the context of GPL is not a new idea, and the word "copyleft" is
>> > sometimes used instead. But copyleft is not used in source files
>> > because this would unlink GPL from the well-established legal
>> > framework associated with "copyright", making it more difficult for
>> > the FSF to enforce its principles (the critical link is provided by
>> > the copyright holders or "deputies").
>> >
>> > A final clarification: authors of original works do retain a legal
>> > copyright on  their original work in the sense that they are free
>> > to modify this work and release it as non-free software (or
>> > under a different free license), but this has no effect on the
>> > version that was released under GPL. The latter version and
>> > all of its progeny belong to the public (or to the FSF from
>> > a legal point of view).
>> >
>> > Please feel free to express your opinion on these matters.
>> >
>> > Thanks,
>> > Dominick
>> >
>> >       [[alternative HTML version deleted]]
>> >
>> > ______________________________________________
>> > R-devel at r-project.org mailing list
>> > https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-devel
>> --
>> %~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%
>>  Dr. Gavin Simpson             [t] +44 (0)20 7679 0522
>>  ECRC, UCL Geography,          [f] +44 (0)20 7679 0565
>>  Pearson Building,             [e] gavin.simpsonATNOSPAMucl.ac.uk
>>  Gower Street, London          [w] http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucfagls/
>>  UK. WC1E 6BT.                 [w] http://www.freshwaters.org.uk
>> %~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%~%
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