Server Side Public License FAQ

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Why are you changing the license for MongoDB?

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The market is quickly moving to consume most software as a service. This is a time of incredible opportunity for open source projects, with the potential to foster a new wave of great open source server side software. The reality, however, is that once an open source project becomes interesting, it is too easy for large cloud vendors to capture all the value but contribute nothing back to the community. As an example, MongoDB has become one of the most popular databases in the industry. As a result, we have observed organizations, especially the international cloud vendors, begin to test the boundaries of the AGPL license.

Given this risk, small companies are unwilling to make that bet, so most software being written is closed source. We believe the open source approach leads to more valuable, robust and secure software, and it directly enables a stronger community and better products. The community needs a new open source license that builds on the spirit of the AGPL, but makes explicit the conditions for providing the software as a service.

We are issuing a new license to eliminate any confusion about the specific conditions of offering a publicly available MongoDB as a service. This change is also designed to make sure that companies who do run a publicly available MongoDB as a service, or any software subject to the SSPL, are giving back to the community. It should be noted that the new license maintains all of the same freedoms the community has always had with MongoDB under AGPL - they are free to use, review, modify, and redistribute the source code. The only changes are additional terms that make explicit the conditions for offering a publicly available MongoDB as a service.

Obviously, this new license helps our business, but it is also important for the MongoDB community. MongoDB has invested approximately $300M in R&D over the past decade to offer an open source database for everyone, and with this change MongoDB will continue to be able to aggressively invest in R&D to drive further innovation and value for the community.

When is the SSPL going to take effect?

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All MongoDB Community Server patch releases and versions released on or after October 16, 2018 will be subject to this new license, including future patch releases of older versions.

Is the SSPL based on an OSI-recognized open source license?

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Yes, we have based the SSPL on the GNU General Public License, version 3, but it is a new license introduced by MongoDB, not the Free Software Foundation. We have submitted the SSPL to the OSI for approval and believe that it meets the criteria for open source.

What specifically is different between the GPL and the SSPL and what will it be called?

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The new license will be called Server Side Public License (SSPL)

The only substantive modification is section 13, which makes clear the condition to offering MongoDB as a service. A company that offers a publicly available MongoDB as a service must open source the software it uses to offer such service, including the management software, user interfaces, application program interfaces, automation software, monitoring software, backup software, storage software and hosting software, all such that a user could run an instance of the service using the source code made available.

Section 13 of the SSPL reads as follows:

“If you make the functionality of the Program or a modified version available to third parties as a service, you must make the Service Source Code available via network download to everyone at no charge, under the terms of this License. Making the functionality of the Program or modified version available to third parties as a service includes, without limitation, enabling third parties to interact with the functionality of the Program or modified version remotely through a computer network, offering a service the value of which entirely or primarily derives from the value of the Program or modified version, or offering a service that accomplishes for users the primary purpose of the Software or modified version.

“Service Source Code” means the Corresponding Source for the Program or the modified version, and the Corresponding Source for all programs that you use to make the Program or modified version available as a service, including, without limitation, management software, user interfaces, application program interfaces, automation software, monitoring software, backup software, storage software and hosting software, all such that a user could run an instance of the service using the Service Source Code you make available.”

A full copy of the SSPL is here.

Why did you base the SSPL on GPL v3 instead of AGPL?

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The AGPL is a modified version of GPL v3. The only additional requirement of AGPL is in section 13, which states that if you run a modified program on a server and let other users communicate with it there, you must open source the source code corresponding to your modified version, known as the “Remote Network Interaction” provision of AGPL.

There is some confusion in the marketplace about the trigger and scope of the Remote Network Interaction provision of AGPL. As a result, we decided to base the SSPL on GPL v3 and to add a new section 13 which clearly and explicitly sets forth the conditions to offering the licensed program as a service.

Does section 13 of the SSPL apply if I’m offering MongoDB as a service for internal-only use?

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No. We do not consider providing MongoDB as a service internally or to subsidiary companies to be making it available to a third party.

Can you really call yourself an open source company, or describe your products as open source if you are not using an OSI-approved open source license?

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Although the SSPL is not currently OSI approved, it maintains all of the same freedoms the community has always had with MongoDB under AGPL. Users are free to review, modify, and distribute the software or redistribute modifications to the software. We have submitted the new license to the OSI for approval.

How does the MongoDB license differ from the Commons Clause license?

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The Commons Clause prohibits the sale of any product or software based on the licensed software and is therefore not open source. The SSPL simply clarifies the specific conditions of offering a publicly available MongoDB as a service, which is consistent with the principles of open source; users are free to use, review, modify, distribute the software, or redistribute modifications to the software.

Will you let others use the SSPL? Can they use it on their own?

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Yes, anyone can adopt this license, and we hope that many organizations and individuals will use it to protect themselves, their communities, and their intellectual property.

How does the SSPL change the current usage of MongoDB Community Server? Are those users grandfathered in?

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All versions of MongoDB’s Community Server released on or after October 16, 2018, including patch fixes for prior versions, will be licensed under the SSPL. Prior versions of MongoDB Community Server released prior to October 16th, 2018 will remain under the AGPL; therefore, any use of those versions is governed by AGPL.

What are the implications of the SSPL on applications built using MongoDB and made available as a service (SaaS)?

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The copyleft condition of Section 13 of the SSPL applies only when you are offering the functionality of MongoDB, or modified versions of MongoDB, to third parties as a service. There is no copyleft condition for other SaaS applications that use MongoDB as a database.

What are the implications of the SSPL on your customers and partners?

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This SSPL will apply to MongoDB Community Server. For the vast majority of the community, there is absolutely no impact from the licensing change. The SSPL maintains all of the same freedoms the community has always had with MongoDB under AGPL - users are free to use, review, modify, distribute the software or redistribute modifications to the software.

Customers and OEM partners using MongoDB under a commercial license will not be affected by this change. MongoDB Atlas users do not run the MongoDB database and do not become licensees of the MongoDB database software. As a result, users of MongoDB Atlas will also not be affected by this change.

How can community members contribute to MongoDB repositories under the SSPL?

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There will be no change for users to contribute to MongoDB repositories under the new license. The process to contribute is documented here.

What will happen if someone in the community is currently building something on MongoDB Community Server?

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There will be no impact to anyone in the community building an application using MongoDB Community Server unless it is a publicly available MongoDB as a service. The copyleft condition of Section 13 of the SSPL does not apply to companies building other applications or a MongoDB as a service offering for internal-only use.

How does this affect customers who use MongoDB as a service from cloud providers today?

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Any publicly available MongoDB as a service offering must comply with the SSPL if they are using a version of MongoDB released on or after October 16, 2018.

How does this license comply with “freedom 0” – the freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose – of the FSF’s four essential freedoms ?

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The SSPL is compliant with “freedom 0” because it does not place any restrictions on running the software for any purpose, it only places a condition on doing so. Furthermore, such condition only applies if the software is part of a MongoDB as a service offering for public consumption. In this situation, the condition clarifies the responsibilities of a licensee to the open source community.

How does this license comply with Items 5 (No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups) and 6 (No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor) of the OSI’s Open Source Definition?

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The SSPL does not discriminate against any persons or fields of endeavor. It does not place any restrictions on the use of any software, only conditions. The SSPL is like many other open source licenses, whose terms will naturally apply differently to different groups of licensees. For example, most open source licenses apply very different conditions to software distributors and software users -- not because the license discriminates, but because those licensees choose to do different things with the software.

How does this license comply with Item 9 (License Must Not Restrict Other Software) of the OSI’s Open Source Definition?

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The SSPL does not place any restrictions on the use of any other software, only conditions. Furthermore, such conditions only apply if the software is part of the MongoDB as a service offering for public consumption.

What happens to the drivers and MongoDB Connector for Apache Spark?

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MongoDB-supported drivers and the MongoDB Spark Connector will continue to be licensed under Apache License v2.0.