Can I use R via RDOTNET without having to provide the source code of my application.

R is covered under GNU GPLv3.

RDOTNET is under New BSD.

From the RDOTNET description:

"R.NET enables the .NET Framework to interoperate with the R statistical language in the same process. R.NET works on Windows, Linux and MacOS."

I use R via RDOTNET in my application. I run a few commands get the output and display it to the user. I am not modifying the R code in any way.

Does my application have to be distributed under GPLv3?


1) if the user installs R themselves, in which case we only distribute R.NET

2) if we provide the R files as part of our distribution

If I do have to provide the source for my entire application in either case. Can I wrap the calls to R in a library and open source just that library and use that library in my program?

1 Answer 1


It depends on whether or not you're creating a derived work and triggering the copyleft provision.

In general, for your program to not trigger copyleft, it must either be a separate work, or not be distributed. To qualify as a separate work, it must:

  1. Communicate with the GPL'd software at arms length, and
  2. Not be dependent on the GPL'd software for all or a substantial portion of its proper functioning.

Here comes the important part.

Communicating with the GPL'd software through a third-party interface doesn't change the nature of the relationship between the two programs. In particular, communicating through a third-party interface doesn't automatically confer arms-length communication, nor does it change the essential relationship between the program and its GPL'd component, in terms of its proper functioning.

  • Microsoft provides R services in SQL server and provides just the source code for R base packages and not for SQL server. I guess that would fall under your second point. But would it mean all applications using SQL server have to do the same as well?
    – cheedep
    Jul 15, 2016 at 22:37
  • I seriously doubt that Microsoft deals with GPL'd code in any way, shape or form. If they provide R services in SQL Server, they almost certainly wrote their own code to do that. Jul 15, 2016 at 23:44
  • "Microsoft R Open, formerly known as Revolution R Open (RRO), is the enhanced distribution of R from Microsoft Corporation. The current release, Microsoft R Open 3.2.5, is based the statistical language R-3.2.5 and includes additional capabilities for improved performance, reproducibility and platform support." This is from the Microsoft R site.
    – cheedep
    Jul 16, 2016 at 3:00
  • Seems it is GPL after all: mran.revolutionanalytics.com/faq/#mro-eula Jul 16, 2016 at 4:19

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