nextcloud.com is a forked project of owncloud.com and now selling under https://nextcloud.com/enterprise/ (Both projects are licensed under GNU AGPLv3)

Can I fork nextcloud or ownCloud, rebrand it (Keep my changes available on GitHub) and sell it just like what nextcloud is doing?


2 Answers 2


Yes, and you don't even need to make your changes available on GitHub. The GNU Project's attitude to selling free software is summarised in this piece, and they are very much in favour of it.

You do, however, need to convey a copy of the complete corresponding source code (CCS) to each of your customers (ie, those to whom you convey the product), as per AGPLv3 ss 4-6. In addition, should you run your own instance, you will need to convey CCS to anyone who interacts with your instance over the internet and who subsequently requests such a copy (AGPLv3 s13).

In practice, keeping all development in public, on some site like GitHub, will be a good way to fulfil these requests - but if GitHub folds, your obligations don't fold with it. There are some other obligations of which you should be mindful, including but not limited to the requirement to preserve existing copyright notices; you should review the AGPL with your lawyer to avoid any oversights.

And if I were going to do this, I'd take care to warn my customers that they, too, will have s13 obligations to the users of their instances.


No,you cannot sell software that is licensed under GNU AGPLv3. That is made clear in this piece. As they make clear, everyone can get the software for free and the license prohibits you, the copyright owner, from stopping your users using it for free. As soon as you give a copy to one person, the license gives them the right to put it on the internet for anyone to download and use for free.

So technically, I suppose, you can sell the first copy. After that you cannot sell the software because you cannot demand payment from the software's users. You can only request donations.

It's like selling your spot on a nearly-empty public beach. Technically legal, but as you won't get any takers I think the answer is really that you can't sell your spot.

  • 6
    I don't think your first sentence is justified. The piece you quote says in para two "Actually, we encourage people who redistribute free software to charge as much as they wish or can". How is that a prohibition on selling? I'd agree with you that it may not be a fantastic business plan, but that's not what the OP asks.
    – MadHatter
    Feb 26, 2021 at 18:48
  • The piece also says 'With free software, users don't have to pay the distribution fee in order to use the software.'. The right 'to charge as much as they wish or can' is given to everyone, not just the copyright holder. In the days when this clause was written it cost money to mail disks. Now it's free to download. The OP asked if they could sell it. If you cannot demand that your users pay for it then you cannot sell it. By definition, if you sell something, the user has an obligation to pay for it. The license gives no such obligation. Feb 26, 2021 at 19:04
  • I think what MadHatter is missing is that the right to 'charge as much as they wish or can' is the right to charge to help in the redistribution of the software. It is a moot clause now we have the Internet. No one, not even the copyright holder, can charge for the rights in the software itself, because everyone is already granted rights to use the software. The OP was asking about selling the software. Feb 26, 2021 at 19:19
  • 3
    You may charge for (A)GPL software insofar as you may say, "I will not transfer a copy of this software to you unless you pay me." Indeed you may not charge for a copy that someone already has, nor can you prevent potential customers from getting it somewhere else, if they can find access through another distributor. Those facts in no way lessen your ability to make your own act of transfering (A)GPL software contingent on payment, which is an arrangement I would certainly call a "sale". I think your first sentence disagrees with my comment here, while your last paragraph agrees with it.
    – apsillers
    Feb 26, 2021 at 20:18
  • 1
    "everyone is already granted rights to use the software" is simply false. Each entity with the right to a copy of the software has the right to make additional copies (with or without modification), but those who don't have a copy and -- (because we're talking about AGPL) aren't authorized remote users -- can't force anyone else to give them one.
    – Ben Voigt
    Feb 26, 2021 at 21:09

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