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I'm building a classic proprietary on-prem application, that I might sell software licenses for if the project succeeds. The application is dependent on MongoDb as a database.

  1. Can I freely bundle MongoDb community edition in the application installer?
  2. Can I freely (regarding MongoDB) offer my application as SaaS?

Below is an answer from MongoDb customer support from june 2020, which make me belive the answer is yes to questions 1 and 2. I guess I'm just overly cautious since it is a non-standard open source license. My idea of what constitutes a service is a bit ambigious.

My loose interpretation is that as long as what you're launching is not a competitor to MongoDb Atlas you have nothing to worry about.

ANSWER JUNE 2020 MONGODB CUSTOMER SUPPORT

Below is a brief explanation and full blog post written by our founder to be read in detail.

SSPL maintains all of the same freedoms the community has always had with MongoDB under AGPL, and users are free to use, review, modify, distribute the software or redistribute modifications to the software.

If you have further questions, we recommend first reading thoroughly Eliot’s blog post on this topic. If you are planning to offer MongoDB as a service you are obliged by law to open source code you code for the service. https://www.mongodb.com/blog/post/mongodb-now-released-under-the-server-side-public-license ...

  • What does the license say? – planetmaker Aug 14 at 8:04
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    To clarify: is there anything which makes you doubt it? Is there anything which you think allows it? What are your own thoughts and research work on that? Or do you just want to save time and find some idiot to do the research for you for free? – planetmaker Aug 14 at 8:29
  • I did my research beforehand. See edits. – Schaki Aug 14 at 18:18
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    SSPL is a non-free license closely based on AGPL. Basically, it's AGPLv3 minus the right to offer the database "as a service" (section 13) unless you make all your tooling available. MongoDB's customer support answer says "no worries" but that is PR, not legal advice. There is a very good chance SSPL section 13 doesn't affect you because your use of MongoDB doesn't look like a "service", but it might be significantly easier to use an unencumbered software like Postgres instead. – amon Aug 18 at 7:04
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If you are planning on spending months or years of effort and money to build software on top of other software, it's a good idea to find a lawyer and pay for a proper professional opinion, which the rest of this answer isn't.

Can I freely bundle MongoDb community edition in the application installer?

My understanding is this is allowed.

Can I freely (regarding MongoDB) offer my application as SaaS?

If you expose MongoDB to your users in any capacity you need to be very clear on exactly what that exposure is and whether that constitutes "service". An argument can be made that if you allow users to query MongoDB with arbitrary queries you are providing MongoDB as a service.

My loose interpretation is that as long as what you're launching is not a competitor to MongoDb Atlas you have nothing to worry about.

One problem with this statement is you don't know what "MongoDB Atlas" is, in its entirety. You know some of the things it does today but you have no idea what is going to be included a year or 5 years from now, when SSPL will still apply.

The second problem with this statement is it's not what the license says. You are obligated to release source code you may not be allowed to release under SSPL even if you do not "compete" with Atlas.

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  • Good, I think what I'm working on is pretty much in the safe zone. However it seems that the SSPL makes it a bit hard to recommend MongoDb in general to projects without a lawyer budget. – Schaki Aug 19 at 6:32

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