The AGPL demands we must provide a copy of AGPL code we run online.If someone makes online virtual machine service and someone runs AGPL software on it is the online VM provider obliged to follow AGPL and distribute source code of is servers ?

1 Answer 1


No. The AGPL is more targeted: if someone modifies an AGPL-covered program, then they must offer the program's source code to all users who interact remotely over a network with that program.

The AGPL is a copyright-based license: it draws its legal power from the copyright of the program's authors. It cannot have any effect on other unrelated software. So we need to think about which programs are a “covered work” under the AGPL. There is some disagreement on what is part of a program (e.g. whether libraries or scripts are part of the program). However, it is widely accepted that an operating system or a virtual machine platform is a different work/program from the software running within the VM.

It is also dubious whether the VM provider would have any legal duty regarding open source software running on their VMs. The person running an AGPL program (“operator”) is responsible to the AGPL program's copyright holders (“authors”) for license compliance. There is no relationship between the VM provider and the authors. If it were a license breach to run the AGPL software on these VMs, that license breach would likely be the fault of the operator.

As a general rule, Open Source licenses like the AGPL will never affect other, unrelated software. This is a reason why MongoDB's SSPL cannot be an Open Source license. The SSPL takes the AGPL but widens the “remote network interaction” part and changes the concept of “source code” to cover the entire software stack. So using SSPL-licensed software could make license compliance difficult with problems similar to those suggested in your question. But that wouldn't be the fault of the VM provider, and the AGPL doesn't have such issues in the first place.

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