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I run a small consulting firm and would like to configure some GPLv3 and AGPL software for a client (think HR, Accounting, ERP software). We mainly want to avoid Oracle or other ERP providers to save our client money, so if possible we want to go with open source. The GPL and AGPL software we will configure for them would only be used by my client internally. Neither they or we are offering it as a service. We are not hosting it for them (we will configure it on their provider of choice), but we will charge for maintenance of their system if they choose to pay us for that. We are also open with them about specifically what software we setup for them use and show them where to find the code on GitHub.

Alongside the GPL code, we also distribute some software that we have written ourselves, and when we are ready, will deploy all of it together on a Kubernetes cluster for our client so that their business can use it. Our proprietary code does not use the GPL or AGPL code in any way, and exists completely independently. It is deployed separately, but on the same cluster. Additionally, the GPL and AGPL code we want to host for them will not be modified or touched in any way, and is only deployed for their internal use.

If some of the software I configure for my client is GPL or AGPL, will we have to release our own proprietary modules which have nothing to do with the GPL or AGPL code but are distributed and deployed alongside it?

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This is "mere aggregation" as explained in the GPL FAQ:

An “aggregate” consists of a number of separate programs, distributed together on the same CD-ROM or other media. The GPL permits you to create and distribute an aggregate, even when the licenses of the other software are nonfree or GPL-incompatible.

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If you distribute the GPL and AGPL software to your client (IE by placing it on the client's servers), it will be licensed to the client under the GPL and AGPL.

If you link your proprietary software to the GPL or AGPL code, you may trigger clauses of the GPL or AGPL that require you to supply the client with your code under those licenses. When I say "link," the real test is... More complicated, so if you're worried about this, hire an attorney in your jurisdiction, it shouldn't take too long, might be an hour of work, who knows.

If the work is distributed to other clients, there may be other issues. If the AGPL code is modified at some point, there may be other issues still.

I am not your attorney and this has not been legal advice.

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    I think checking with a lawyer is our best bet, but I can provide some additional context about potential linking. The only thing the GPL/AGPL software has in common with the custom modules we built our client is the location (the same k8s cluster). Other than that, our code never communicates with GPL code in any way (not through a network and definitely not through code). They do their jobs independently and don't need each other at all to work. All GPL and AGPL code we use is licensed under their respective licenses and our clients are aware. I hope this clarifies things w.r.t. linking. Apr 25, 2023 at 22:03
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    It's really hard to say without actually sitting down and understanding your case, but it might be that your custom modules interacting with the GPL code are subject to the GPL and your separate code is not. This is still not legal advice, I really don't know your situation, I am not your attorney.
    – Daniel
    Apr 27, 2023 at 1:03

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