The AGPL is mostly intended to address "software that runs over a network". However, that is pretty much most software today. And even if not, it seems to me that in light of a piece of software that never runs over a network, wouldn't the AGPL effectively do exactly the same as the GPL does?

So, shouldn't the AGPL be the default or would there be something that is detrimental or disadvantageous compared to the GPL? Or to rephrase it, is there any reason to ever use the GPL over the AGPL?

1 Answer 1


Using the AGPL can prevent use of your code in some places where the GPL is acceptable; Google comes to mind:

Code licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL) MUST NOT be used at Google.

The license places restrictions on software used over a network which are extremely difficult for Google to comply with.

Generally companies who make their money providing SaaS won't mind GPL but may well recoil violently from AGPL. Arguably, this is because their customers will never be in a position to demand anything under GPL (as the companies distribute no software) but might well be in a position to exercise rights under AGPL (because they do interact with it over a network).

You might be completely happy with that, and that is of course fine. Nevertheless, it's a definite difference between the two licences.

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    So in other words, yes, everything that was released as GPL should have been AGPL. That's my takeaway, anyway.
    – bitmask
    Dec 31, 2020 at 21:42
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    Why not the Server Side Public License, or some even more far-reaching license? You have to accept that different people have different opinions on where the boundary lies. Dec 31, 2020 at 21:52
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    @MadHatter To expand on the original question, are there potential cases where AGPL used under the original copyleft intent (i.e. those making changes need to release their changes to their users) might still be harmful for certain copyleft-friendly FOSS projects?
    – Tin Man
    Jan 2, 2021 at 22:48
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    @TinMan CC BY-SA is compatible into GPLv3 but not AGPLv3: creativecommons.org/share-your-work/licensing-considerations/… Although the GPL and AGPL are fairly permissive about combinations with one another (sect.13 in each license) so this isn't likely to present practical problems
    – apsillers
    Jan 3, 2021 at 3:28

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