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Server Side Public License FAQ

Why are we 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.

Given this risk, small companies are unwilling to make that bet, so most software being written is closed source.

We believe an open development approach leads to more valuable, robust and secure software, and it directly enables a stronger community and better products.

The community needs a new license that builds on the spirit of the AGPL, but makes explicit the conditions for providing the software as a service.

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.

Rather than litigating this issue in the courts, 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 over $300M in R&D over the past decade to offer an open 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.

What is the new license called and what will be licensed under it?

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The new license is called the Server Side Public License (SSPL). 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.

Are you basing the SSPL 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. The SSPL has not been approved by the OSI.

What specifically is the difference between the GPL and the SSPL?

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  1. 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 release the software it uses to offer such service under the terms of the SSPL, 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:

a.
“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.”

b.
“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: 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 third-party 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.

Will MongoDB continue to provide open source software?

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Yes, MongoDB supported drivers and connectors such as the MongoDB Connector for Apache Spark are licensed under the Apache License v2.0.

All versions of MongoDB Community Server released prior to October 16, 2018 will continue to be licensed under the Free Software Foundation's GNU AGPL v3.0.

Although the SSPL is not 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. However, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) has its own process for approving what it considers to be an open source license, and the SSPL has not received OSI approval. MongoDB software licensed under the SSPL is not considered open source by the OSI.

Will you let others use the new license? 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 license 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 before October 16th, 2018 will remain under the AGPL; therefore, any use of those versions is governed by AGPL.

What are the implications of this new license 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 this new license 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 new license?

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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.