I'm quite confused with MongoDB's licensing model. MongoDB at its core is an open-source project, licensed under the SSPL which is a small modification of the AGPLv3 license. Then how does it release enterprise versions of its software with advanced features with an entirely different proprietary license which still uses AGPL code? Why doesn't MongoDB have to release its modifications?

Does MongoDB being the copyright holder give it these rights? Then what about the contributions made to MongoDB by the folks in the OSS community? How does MongoDB incorporate these changes to its proprietary solutions?

(I am an absolute novice in open-source, so please be liberal!)

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    If you own copyright, you are not bound by the license you attach to your code and can offer the same product under different licenses. A license is only an offer to others on how they may use your work. No-one can tell you what to do with stuff you own. Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 15:15
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    @planetmaker What about the code that folks contribute to MongoDB? MongoDB makes use of the contributions too...right?
    – USER_92
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 15:27

1 Answer 1


MongoDB requires contributors to sign a contributor agreement where they have to waive all rights so that MongoDB can license the code subsequently under whatever license they see fit. That includes non-free licenses which allows them to sell proprietary extensions which would otherwise be in violation of the GPL, if they had to abide by it.

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