NZ-developed R software exploited by US company: creator

Open source license not adhered to says NZ academic

The co-creator of an internationally recognised statistical program called R claims a US company is in exploiting the program’s open source licence.

R is a kind of super-sized calculator that is used in statistical applications for industries as diverse as pharmaceuticals, stock broking and telecommunications. It has a General Public Licence (GPL), which means that anyone can alter it on the condition that they reveal the source code.

And for almost two decades that is what thousands, possibly millions of people (it is impossible to tell how many, because R is free), have done. But now a US company Revolution Analytics is changing R, and – according to co-creator Ross Ihaka – not adhering to the terms of the GPL. Ihaka wants to sue the company, but he doesn’t have the $100,000 he thinks he will need to take legal action.

Revolution Analytics CEO Norman Nie rebuts the claim that the company is in breach of R’s GPL. In an email to Computerworld he said Revolution Analytics has an ‘Open Core’ business model. “While ‘Open Core’ may not always be popular with open source advocates because it does involve proprietary licences, the model has been reviewed and approved by the general legal counsel of the Open Source initiative as being fully GPL-compatible.”

As for the other creator of R, Robert Gentleman, he declined to comment publicly about the stousch. He is now based in the US and was appointed to the board of Revolution Analytics earlier this year. Next month he will accept the inaugural Statistical Computing and Graphics award from the American Statistical Association given to both him and Ihaka in recognition of R.

Now online: The Story of R: a statistical tale with a twist

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Tags RRevolution AnalyticsRobert GentlemanRoss Ihaka

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