Is it possible to sell open-source R scripts in Linux containers run with Podman on Windows and control the containers with closed-source graphical user interface (GUI)? The straightforward and openly documented communication protocol between the GUI and the container will rely on command line. According to my best understanding, the setup could be considered as software aggregate as described here:


However, running the containers on Windows requires setting up the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL, or at least it seems to be the easiest way to get the things running). So, the R, Podman, and containers are open source, but the WSL has proprietary parts. The overall setup and mixture of licenses start to become quite complicated. Could the license-interpreter experts verify is the approach okay, and possibly clarify why the "license leakages" are or are not an issue?

To make things even more complicated, the R is actually (or parts of it?) distributed under many other licenses than GPL as well. So, what is the practical approach here, pick up say GPL-2 from the many options and use it for further distribution in the commercial aggregate?


Similarly, many options are available for the Rocker (Docker containers for R): "The Rocker Dockerfiles are licensed under the GPL 2 or later". Thus, can I pick up the GPL-2 for the distribution in the aggregate?

I hope this discussion will help others as well who are figuring out similar cases. And because the cases vary, it would be awesome if someone could describe a practical step-by-step protocol/logic for dealing with the software licenses in small commercial projects. Assuming that there is at least some universal substance in the topic.

Thanks for all the helpers!

Edit: it is difficult to find clear official information about the WSL license. The claim that the WSL has proprietary parts was obtained from wikipedia:


This repo declares Creative Commons license, but I believe this refers only to the content of the repo used to track issues with WSL:


Back to the practical approach. Should the WSL be considered as a part of the underlying operating system running the commercial software, why the "environment's" licenses do not leak into my product? Furthermore, the WSL will run only the open-source container and R scripts in it, separated from the proprietary GUI by the command-line interface. Thanks.

1 Answer 1


I am answering to my own question after researching more.

Searching for "Windows subsystem for Linux" with "license" or "commercial use" did not help much. The best additional search term so far has been the "production environment" that helped me to find the link below. This is still a little bit vague, because the information is obtained from a FAQ page, not from a legal document. However, it is Microsoft's own interpretation, and they do not deny of using WSL in production environment (for me =commercially). They say it may not be technically the best option, especially for server use.


This further supports the earlier-mentioned practical approach of considering the WSL as a part of the underlying operating system why the licenses seem to be cleared.

The wsl.exe file was in the System32 folder with a bunch of other non-related files and directories. No relevant readme files etc were found.

Why I became cautious in the first place? I noticed that the use of the Windows base OS Docker images for production environment is expressively denied. Although the containers are of course quite different from WSL, as they try to virtualize the operating system itself excluding some underlying parts.


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