I want to try a WYSIWYG editor in my closed-source application and I'm wondering if what I want to do is legal.

  • I create an OSS project (GPL license) that contains the editor of my choice
  • I deploy it to the cloud
  • In my closed-source application I use it through an iframe.

As far as I know as long as the project is not using AGPL I can do this, am I correct?

Clarification: There are 3 projects involved:

  • GPL WYSIWYG editor
  • A GPL wrapper project for this editor that exposes it as a service
  • A proprietary project that uses this service through an iframe.


  • The user loads the site
  • The site has a textarea that contains markdown
  • The client (javascript running in the browser) converts this to html
  • Then it calls a webservice with the html and gets back html content (containing the iframe and the embedded WYSIWYG editor)
  • The user interacts with the editor and when they click save
  • The modified HTML data is extracted from the iframe, converted back to markdown and the textarea's content is overwritten

Note that there are no files being edited, only HTML travels as a byte array to the webservice and from the iframe.

Final note: The javascript files are not stored on the same server as my app. It is loaded from a remote server when the iframe is appended to the DOM.

  • Interestingly enough I arrived at the same conclusion as you on a project I'm working on. Did you ever get a concrete answer as to whether or not this is "mere aggregation" or "combining two modules"?
    – Jacob
    Jun 9, 2021 at 21:44
  • No, I started working with Slate.js instead.
    – Adam Arold
    Jun 14, 2021 at 19:51

1 Answer 1


If you're the creator of the GPL project, you're not bound by the licence anyway, so there's no problem with what you propose.

If you mean "I take someone else's WYSIWYG editor under GPL, and use that as part of my proprietary web-hosted SaaS", then as long as it's not AGPL, there's still no problem with what you propose.

But if in addition that WYSIWYG editor involves Javascript, and that Javascript is downloaded to the client browser, you are now distributing GPL software, and at that point you do have obligations.

  • I am not the creator of this editor, I just want to put it on the web as as service. Then I'd like to use this service form my propietary software. Javascript is downloaded to the client's browser but it is not linked in any way with my software (I use an iframe to load it). What obligations do I have in this case? So to clarify: I put this editor as part of my OSS project as a service and then I use this project as service from my propietary software. There are 3 projects involved.
    – Adam Arold
    Aug 25, 2020 at 13:51
  • When you say use the service from my proprietary software do you mean use the service as part of an offering alongside my proprietary software? Tell us more about how the end-user interacts with all of this, when your software decides to show the end-user the editor, and what (if anything) it does with edited files. Forget the iframe, by the way, that makes no difference at all to the coupling involved.
    – MadHatter
    Aug 25, 2020 at 14:35
  • Fair enough, I added a workflow description to my question.
    – Adam Arold
    Aug 25, 2020 at 20:48
  • did I clear things up regarding the user interaction?
    – Adam Arold
    Aug 26, 2020 at 22:21
  • Sort of. The remote server that serves that JS for the editor, is this server under your control? Or do you just redirect the user's browser to it?
    – MadHatter
    Aug 27, 2020 at 6:25

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