I'm getting ready to open source a project that facilitates the deployment, maintenance, and orchestration of data platforms on just about any architecture (locally, on any cloud of your choosing, on your personal server farm etc.). Given the nature of the project, there is a chance that cloud providers might eventually want to offer this software as a service. I am perfectly fine with commercial enterprises using this software freely as part of their own internal tooling. However, I was wondering if there was any way to require the purchase of a paid license in the case where a cloud provider might offer this software as a service. The relatively recent SSPL from MongoDB seems to have taken a first step of formalizing "as a service" when it comes to licensing. I also really like the added requirement that any such service provider must provide their (modified) source code. Here are my questions then :

  • Would it be possible to use a modified version of the SSPL to impose a fee only in the scenario where the software is offered as a service ?
  • Is there any way to extend this requirement to also apply to the API implicitly defined by my code ? Simply put, can a paid license still be required if the hosted service reproduces my API but entirely with their own code ?
  • On a more subjective note, is such a practice generally frowned upon by the open source community ?
  • 3
    There's nothing subjective about this: it's non-free. The SSPL has attracted a great deal of criticism, but the crucial point is that neither the OSI nor the FSF recognise it as a free licence, which makes it off-topic here. Licences like the AGPL allow you to require others to share their code if they use yours in providing a hosted service, but that's as far as the free software community will go. Your question about licensing any copyrights in your API asks about non-free licensing, and so is also off-topic for this site, whether or not there are any to license.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 9:22
  • Why is it off topic ? Software can be open source but not free.
    – ticster
    Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 9:49
  • 2
    As you will see from our help documents, we use the OSI and FSF definitions of "free" and "open source" to decide what's on topic here. Sadly, non-commercial licences don't fit that bill.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 10:48
  • Well that's a shame. Guess I'll have too look elsewhere then. Thanks for the info.
    – ticster
    Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 20:56

1 Answer 1


Yes, you can do that. Please go to a lawyer and let him/her draft such a commercial license for you.

Do not expect this group here to help. We are here to support the understanding of OSS, not of commercial licenses.

Please be sure to check all of the licenses of the real open source code you might be using/including in your project and to fulfill all of the requirements which these licenses impose on you.

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