I heard the term GPL leakage mentioned very recently in a presentation from a well qualified speaker from MongoDB at an event for developers & integrators in the cloud computing market. I've never heard this term anywhere else, but the audience seemed to follow what he was saying, suggesting this might be an institutional issue.

The context was that cloud computing providers might be providing database implementations to include MongoDB (itself open source, AGPL v3.0) as well as their own software. I can imagine some of the legal implications of this, but only vaguely... so would appreciate generally what's meant by this term and/or whatever institutional problem it suggests: preferably with an example.

  • 2
    I'm guessing that the speaker was referring to the viral nature of the GPL.
    – RubberDuck
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 11:22
  • Then a more common synonym might be virality (although Wikipedia marks it as pejorative) indicating that derivative works are also GPL'd. I searched for mongodb gpl derivative work which turns up the popular thread AGPL - what you can do and what you can't with a lot more background info, including a link MongoDB: The AGPL which details the solution the speaker could have been suggesting.
    – rphair
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 14:42
  • @rphair I'm a little unsure but does what you've commented here answer your question? If so you should post it as an answer :) (expand on it a little though)
    – Tim Malone
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 7:54
  • @tim-malone I will if no other answers by end of week, though it's not my field either as a vendor or a legal expert, so waiting a couple more days in case that manifests...
    – rphair
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 12:22
  • I cannot resist the joke: Per wikipedia: "Liquefied petroleum gas ([is] also called LPG, GPL, LP Gas, or autogas) " .... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_fuel_cell_terms ... So a GPL leakage is really a gas leak. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 20:30

1 Answer 1


This term's current unavailability on Internet search suggests it was improvised by the speaker according to a negative association with the GPL that listeners would have recognised.

The use of the term Viral license (marked as pejorative by Wikipedia) is discouraged because it focuses on the vulnerabilities rather than the protection offered by open source licensing agreements. Yet it is probably the best short synonym (part of speech aside) for "leakage" and refers to this licensing quality:

... allows derivative works only when permissions are preserved in modified versions of the work.

which provokes the worry over software vendors' own additions to GPL software also being freely redistributable under the GPL license. MongoDB is a good test case of this idea because of practical licensing situations for which they & others discuss some problems and solutions:

which provide specific examples as requested by the OP.

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