We have code that is under the license AGPL v3.0 can we change it to BSL v1.1 (Business source license) The AGPL v3.0 says that

Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

does this mean we should not change the license or should not change the code? if what i am thinking is right then we should not change the license. But if we want to change the license of code that is under AGPL v3.0 to BSL v1.1 then what do we have to do? Summary by choosealicense

GNU Affero General Public License v3.0 summary

  • It would be helpful if you explained what you thought changing the license would do. For example, do you think this will mean that people you distribute the code to don't get an AGPL v3.0 license to the work? Or do you think this will grant additional rights to recipients? Or do you think this will mean that you won't have to comply with the AGPL v3.0 requirements with respect to the work? Or what exactly? Jul 19, 2022 at 17:41
  • @DavidSchwartz hey what i really mean is : there is already open source AGPL repo that we cloned(we are not owners) , and after modification we want to change its license to BSL v1.1 is that possible?
    – Aviroxi
    Jul 21, 2022 at 4:14
  • What do you think that will do though? Do you think that will mean that you don't have to comply with the AGPL? Do you think that will mean that your customers will get additional rights? Do you think that means your customers won't have to comply with AGPL requirements if they distribute the code? Do you think that means your customers won't have AGPL rights with respect to the original code? What do you think changing the license will do? Jul 21, 2022 at 5:36
  • @DavidSchwartz You are really overthinking. all we want is to stop someone else from redeploying our project when we are still starting up we dont want anyone to use it as production for 4 years but later it can become open source so that by then we will have a enough community on our side.
    – Aviroxi
    Jul 22, 2022 at 8:11
  • So you want to ensure that your customers don't get AGPL rights? Jul 23, 2022 at 3:40

2 Answers 2


You can relicense your code away from the AGPL if you are the sole copyright holder. More precisely:

  • All copyrighted material that is supposed to be part of the new version must have a license that is compatible with the new license.
  • Where this is not possible, the copyright holders must be asked for consent, effectively granting you a new license.
  • For those parts where you are the copyright holder, you can do whatever you want.

For example, you cannot relicense someone else's AGPL project, unless they agree to the relicensing. In contrast, you can relicense your own project, if any libraries/changes/components from other people have licenses that are compatible with the new license. If other people contributed to your AGPL project, and if they didn't sign a CLA granting you wider rights, then those contributions would be AGPL-licensed to you, and you would be unable to change the license unless the contributors agree to the relicensing or if you remove their contributions.

The part of the AGPL/GPL that you cite is often misinterpreted:

Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

This is the license of the license document – you cannot insert clauses into the AGPL and still call it the AGPL. This sentence does not prohibit you from publishing your work under a different license.


You are right that that warning at the top of the AGPL text applies to the AGPL text, not the code to which the licence applies. Quite intentionally, the licence text is invariant, so all documents calling themselves the "GNU Affero General Public Licence" have to be the same.

But most of the licence is designed to apply to the covered code (rather than to itself). One such is s5c, referring to the distribution of modified source versions:

You must license the entire work, as a whole, under this License to anyone who comes into possession of a copy. This License will therefore apply [...] to the whole of the work, and all its parts, regardless of how they are packaged. This License gives no permission to license the work in any other way

Another is s6, which says that the same condition applies to non-source-code distributions. The upshot is that you cannot relicence this code away from AGPL to any other licence, without the explicit permission of the rightsholders. While none of us can guess whether they will give this permission, their choice of the AGPL - traditionally the most copyleft-y of the copyleft licences - suggests to me that they won't.

  • 2
    The rightholder of the AGPL-licensed code may as well be pretty much willing to re-license it (especially if it is a single author and not a big, diverse, distributed team). It may happen in exchange for money or other favor. Your mileage may vary and it is better to ask before assuming anything.
    – fraxinus
    Jul 18, 2022 at 18:24
  • A text saying you mustn't change this text does not preclude other texts calling themselves the same. Jul 18, 2022 at 19:22
  • @RememberMonica the matter is definitely capable of argument. Doing what you suggest could also be regarded as taking the AGPL, removing everything except the title, and inserting different terms. That is a derivative work, which the licence on the AGPL itself does not permit.
    – MadHatter
    Jul 19, 2022 at 9:02
  • @MadHatter Unless sufficient protectable expression from the original work remains in the new work, the new work is not a derivative work. That is literally the test for whether a work is derivative -- does it have sufficient protectable expression taken from the original work? (With a few exceptions not relevant here.) A title is not sufficient protectable expression, that's why you can have multiple songs with the same title. Jul 19, 2022 at 17:37

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