Let's say I have a web service that links to a C library which is licensed under GPL. If I host this service on my own server, then I think I don't have to license my web service under GPL. This is probably the major difference between GPL and AGPL.

However, what if I host it on Amazon AWS? When my service is hosted there, although I own my cloud instance, the instance is on a server owned by Amazon. This means that an Amazon server contains a full copy of my web service. Does that mean I 'distribute' my work to Amazon AWS? If so, does this mean any third party also have rights to get a copy of my source code (the first paragraph of this FAQ item seems to suggest so)?

  • 3
    For the GPLv2, maybe. For the GPLv3, no; this is exempted explicitly in section 2. "You may convey covered works to others for the sole purpose of having them... provide you with facilities for running those works, provided that you comply with the terms of this License in conveying all material for which you do not control copyright. Those thus making or running the covered works for you must do so exclusively on your behalf, under your direction and control, on terms that prohibit them from making any copies of your copyrighted material outside their relationship with you."
    – apsillers
    Jul 31, 2020 at 23:30
  • @apsillers Thanks!
    – steiner
    Aug 1, 2020 at 20:08

1 Answer 1


I suspect you may be overthinking this. When I download a copy of a piece of GPL software onto my home computer, I have never heard it suggested that I am conveying a copy to my landlord simply because I happen to rent my house.

It's generally accepted that during the period of rental, whatever the real-world facilities of the thing that you are renting - the hardware of a colocated server, the memory and disc footprint of a KVM VPS or a containerised instance, disc space on a shared webserver - those facilities are under your control, and anything stored there would generally be regarded as yours during that time absent some very clear contractual language to the contrary. If Amazon started trying to claim any property rights whatsoever in data being processed in AWS, I can only imagine the fuss that would result.

If you knowingly and deliberately left those resources to the renter at the end of the rental period - a USB stick in the house, or code all over a VPS which wasn't going to be zeroed out on termination - then I can see an argument might be made about conveyance. But during the rental period? No.

  • Thanks for your answer!
    – steiner
    Aug 1, 2020 at 20:09

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