i wan to create SaaS for help people to solve different tasks. Which licenses of plugins/libraries can i use in my SaaS? A lot of examples describes a use of plugins and libraries with a software, but SaaS is other type of software. Plugins and libraries will be used in background and will be used indirect.

As i Understand:

I can use in my commercial SaaS the following licenses without any problems. BSD / MIT / Apache

  1. What other types of licenses can I use in addition?

  2. Can I use all licenses with a check mark for commercial use if my code source not public visible(commercial)?

  3. In many conditions it is worth that I am forced to indicate copywriting. But where should I indicate it, if the use of these libraries occurs in the background and completely different services are sold to the client.

For example here can see a full list with comparisons. https://joinup.ec.europa.eu/collection/eupl/solution/joinup-licensing-assistant/jla-find-and-compare-software-licenses

Thanks for the help.

2 Answers 2


You propose to write software to be offered to others as SaaS on a commercial (and, presumably, proprietary) basis. This software will not be entirely created de novo; you wish to use pre-existing freely-licensed software in the creation of your offering, and you have some questions.

What other types of licenses can I use in addition?

All free software can be used in a commercial endeavour. There are non-free licences that forbid it, but as long as you stick to software licensed under an FSF- or OSI-approved free licence, you should be fine.

Can I use all licenses with a check mark for commercial use if my code source not public visible?

Avoid software under the Affero GPL, or similar licences. These licences require that people interacting with your software over a computer network be given the opportunity to receive full source code, so if you do not wish to share your source, you should not use software under such licences in preparing your offering. It is possible to use AGPL-licensed software in preparing backend software that doesn't interact with users, but you will have a problem if the front-end becomes a derivative, in copyright terms, of the AGPL-covered software. Whether this would be true in your case is a complex analysis that requires a complete and exact description of your offering, and probably professional legal advice; your best route is to steer clear of all AGPL- and similarly-licensed software.

In many conditions it is worth that I am forced to indicate copywriting.

I think you mean "forced to indicate copyright"; copywriting is something rather different. The non-copyleft free licences that require preservation of copyright notices only apply when the software is distributed; since you are offering it as SaaS, this is unlikely to apply to you. Licences that require formal advertising acknowledgment are non-free, so as long as you stick to free licences (see above) this shouldn't be an issue.

  • Many Thanks for your detailed explanation. Do I understand correctly that I can also use for example " BSD-3-Clause", "CC-BY-SA-4.0", "GPL-2.0" licenses on an equal footing with the Apache/MIT?
    – JDev
    May 1, 2021 at 9:15
  • 1
    In your particular case, I think so, yes.
    – MadHatter
    May 1, 2021 at 13:40

In addition to entirely avoiding AGPL and similarly-licensed software, you need to carefully consider how your choice of which licenses to accept and which to reject will affect your ability to evolve your business model in the future. For example, if you ever distribute your software to a customer (ie, an on-premises business model) then all of the distribution clauses in all of the licenses of all of the software you are using will suddenly apply. Be very, very sure you have examined these sorts of scenarios in-depth.

And consult an experienced copyright lawyer before doing anything risky, if this project will constitute a significant expenditure of time and/or source of income for you.

  • thanks for the answer, I just want to use one AGPL licensed product. I will run this framework / library on my server and process the results of the library on the server as well, and then I will build a graph for the user that will display the result of the work. If in the future the owner of the library contacts me and says that I am misusing their library, what are the consequences? After all, the interpretation of this license is very contradictory, and I read different opinions on the Internet. In the worst case, I will have to stop using this library on my service. Or?
    – JDev
    May 10, 2021 at 8:54
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    @JDev I am not a lawyer, and I do not know anything about what legal jurisdiction you may be operating in. This is therefore the worse case I can reasonably imagine: If the terms of the AGPL can be reasonably construed to apply to your application due to you incorporating an AGPL-licensed library, you could be obligated to publish the entire source code of your application under the AGPL or GPL, in addition to other possible legal sanctions, such as damages, attorney's fees, etc. May 11, 2021 at 16:43

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