My program is commercial, but the AGPL library would be a back end solution; only the output from that web service is being used. I was told that since I am not modifying the library I do not need to purchase a commercial licence, which makes sense to me.

But, what if my program is being used on hardware sold to my customers (with the back end solution as mentioned above) running on that network and not through my servers, does that mean I am "distributing" the AGPL software and hence require a commercial license?

I need help regarding the interpretation of usage of software licensed under AGPLv3. The webservice is free (although my program is proprietary and commercial) but I do not wish to release my source code. Does that mean I need a commercial licence for the AGPL software?

  • 1
    To be clear, you have a situation where you distribute a hardware device which contains code for a complete, unaltered AGPL service, as well as other code that interacts with the AGPL service through network interfaces. Correct? (I understand the code may not actually cause external network traffic, but uses, e.g., a network socket to localhost.)
    – apsillers
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 15:54
  • Yes that is correct, the main program is not AGPL, but will use webservices from AGPL licensed product on a closed network (fx. OCR reading pdf files located on that network)
    – Inger E
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 13:40

1 Answer 1


If the AGPL code resides on a physical device that you are distributing to your customers, then that counts as conveyance under section 6 of the AGPL.

You are then obliged to either

  • Provide a copy of the source code for application containing the AGPL code along with the device (e.g. on a CD), or
  • Provide a written offer to send the sources or to make them downloadable. This offer must be valid for at least 3 years and as long as you provide support for the device.

The simple fact that your device contains (A)GPL code does not mean that all code on the device needs to have its source published. It is entirely possible to also have proprietary applications running on the device. The normal criteria for determining if something is a derived work apply.

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