license information on use by government for research


This is an obscure license related question. I am trying to find license information relevant to the use of Rstudio in a government research setting. I do not have a specific legal question in mind, and anyway I would not ask for legal advice here if I needed one.

Where does one find information on obligations/restrictions for government users ?

I was trying to find a FAQ or a discussion or a license agreement addendum relevant to my case to try to understand whether there is potential for obligations towards Rstudio/Posit as a result of my work, and whether I potentially have to distribute my scripts but I couldn't find anything other than the pages listed in the list, and to my understanding none of them apply to my case.

I am regularly using the free version of Rstudio as government employee in the context of scientific research. My understanding is that the license is a AGPLv3 license. The product is often just code + processed data and sometimes presentations generated with Quarto via RevealJS. All of this is internal, i.e. for the research purposes of my department. It is, however, shared over the internal network of my organization. Occasionally a presentation or (rarely) a Shiny app (only) may be shared with other government institutions or professional NGOs in our field. None of this generates profit in any way.

A distinction must be drawn between the RStudio application itself and the scripts or other software (such as software written in FORTRAN) that is brought into the script by the user.

The RStudio software itself is governed by the EULA in the case of paid subscription versions and by the AGPL v3 license in the case of the free (or “community”) version. Neither of these apply to what a user does with the software, only to what the user does to it by way of tinkering with the underlying code.

Think about it in terms of the Microsoft Office suite. Microsoft doesn’t have or acquire any intellectual property rights in any article, poem, novel or movie script the user composes using Word, for example. (Quibble: using the program to modify Microsoft source code itself would be an exception.)

The intent of the AGPL v3 license is to keep the software to which it applies and any modifications “open source” if distributed or redistributed by a licensee.

If you have any doubts, see your agency’s in-house legal department. If it were me, I’d start by asking one of their paralegals if there is any internal guidance available on the use of open source software.

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