According to what said in the GPL FAQ (#SubscriptionFee), GPL does not allow to run GPLed programs on a device that will "stop operating if customers do not continue paying a subscription fee", while most cloud computing require users to continue paying the fee in order to use the service continuously. It's pretty normal to see a cloud server running GPLv2 or GPLv3 programs. Is this really violating the GPL?

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    I suspect that FAQ refers to a device you put into the hands of your customers with GPL software on it. The AGPL license wouldn't have been needed if the GPL covered cloud servers. Commented Aug 14, 2021 at 22:26
  • @curiousdannii this sounds reasonable. That part of the FAQ is really a bit misleading...
    – Moebie Wu
    Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 10:37
  • @Moebie I have to agree; I find that Q&A very surprising. I would expect at minimum the answer to be , "Anti-tivoization in the GPLv3 means that the manufacturer must enable you to install your own software that doesn't perform a license check." It's also unclear to me if they're talking only about the legal aspect (i.e., maybe you can get the device to run but you are legally forbidden to do so without paying) or only the technical aspect (i.e., a situation where the device's behavior is to shut down if the fee isn't paid, but you are not legally in the wrong if you circumvent this)
    – apsillers
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 14:56

1 Answer 1


With cloud computing you don't buy a "device that stops operating" when you stop paying the service provider. Instead you buy a time-share of some hardware to run your software on (where 'your software' means that you control which software gets executed on your behalf). Thus you don't pay for the right to run GPL software, but rather for the hardware resources you use.

  • This make sense. Thank you for your answer, it's helpful!
    – Moebie Wu
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 14:38

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