R-beta: Re: S Compatibility

Martyn Plummer plummer at iarc.fr
Wed Apr 30 11:05:19 CEST 1997

At 03:28 30/04/97, ihaka at stat.auckland.ac.nz wrote:

>Bill Venables writes:
>	(As a complete side-issue, Brian Ripley and I have a kind of
>	convention: we refer to the language as "S" and the commercial
>	product as "S-PLUS".  There is a useful distinction to be made.)
>This is generally what I try to do too.
>However, I suspect though that most people don't know that there is a
>difference, and these days so few people can get access to the non-plussed
>version, I wonder how important it is to make the distinction.  :-(

How important is it to avoid being sued, or less facetiously, what is
the legal status of R? If I were Mathsoft I would be less than pleased
at the development of R and would try to stop it if I could. I have
been wondering for some time if this is possible. But I am not a lawyer
and the issue seems very unclear to me.

I suppose the argument that the S language (as opposed to the S-PLUS
product) is public domain. Is this true? Surely S is a commercial 
product developed by Lucent Technologies which is licensed exclusively
to Mathsoft? Arguably (and I'm being devil's advocate here) the S
language, and not just the source code, is the intellectual property of

I know this isn't the first freeware project which is "not unlike"
an existing commercial product.  But in other cases the commercial product
is either a brand name which can be licensed to anyone whose software
passes a validation test suite (eg Linux/UNIX or GNUstep/OpenStep) or else
the freeware version is used with authorization from the commercial
developer (eg Mesa/OpenGL). R does not fit into either category.

Perhaps I'm worrying over nothing, but it would be nice to have
some reassurance.


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