I recently was in need for a place to store my passwords and stumbled upon bitwarden. After looking in github I noticed that the code is partially licensed under AGPL and partially under a commercial license, the bitwarden license.

My understanding of the (A)GPL license has always been that one is not allowed to link with it unless the full product is under (A)GPL.

Apparently my understanding is not complete (I'm no lawyer and I can't imagine bitwarden didn't pass it past their lawyers), could someone explain why this allowed ?

Edit: Could I (or anybody) just remove the code that is under the bitwarden license and add code under my own license, just as bitwarden ? If not ? Why can't I (or anybody) and can bitwarden ?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 20:29

1 Answer 1


Bitwarden requires that its contributors complete a contributor agreement which includes a fairly bulletproof Copyright Transfer Agreement. Assuming this has been applied across the board, it means that Bitkeeper is the sole rightsholder in its codebase. As we have noted here, the copyright holder is never beholden to the rules of the holder's own license grant, so although Bitwarden distributes this code under AGPL, they themselves are free to use it as they please, including in proprietary products, and in other ways that would not be permissible for a licensee bound by the AGPL.

As for your edit, removing Bitwarden's code and replacing it with your own (with a view to freeing the code from the AGPL) is fraught with difficulty, and is pretty much impossible to do single-handedly.

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