I’m using an AGPL library in an internal tool. We don’t redistribute the tool to anywhere. We don’t expose the tool over a network either.

The tool produced a data file, namely a PDF document, that I’d like to include in a proprietary application. The “producer” PDF field in the document says “iTextSharp AGPL-version”.

How contagious is AGPL, does it contaminate PDF files?

Update: That another answer says “The GPL describes rules about the use of the source code, not rules about the use of products of the application itself.” However, AGPL does limit the use of products.

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    Possible duplicate of Licensing of content created by licensed code – gnat Oct 26 '17 at 14:24
  • @gnat: Which mostly talks about the GPL, not the AGPL. – Robert Harvey Oct 26 '17 at 14:47
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    @RobertHarvey: The primary difference between GPL and AGPL is in what is considered to be "distributing the code". The considerations for when the output is covered by the license is the same for GPL and AGPL. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Oct 26 '17 at 15:54
  • @BartvanIngenSchenau: It's not quite that simple. Section 13 of the AGPL (the section that distinguishes from the GPL)says that "if you modify the Program, your modified version must prominently offer all users interacting with it remotely through a computer network (if your version supports such interaction) an opportunity to receive the Corresponding Source of your version". – Robert Harvey Oct 26 '17 at 16:20
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    @RobertHarvey: I would say that the person creating the PDF file is the one that is interacting with the program, not the persons that ultimately get to read the PDF. As far as I can tell from the question, the person creating the PDF already has access to the AGPL-licensed code. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Oct 26 '17 at 16:35

The AGPL is no different from the GPL in this regard: the license only applies to the software, not the output created with the software. An AGPL compiler for example can be used to produce proprietary software of any license, and likewise any PDFs you create with an AGPL software are not required to be AGPL themselves.


Additionally, if you are going to use a negative verb "contaminate" to describe an AGPL software licensing, perhaps you should find a different library where you won't disparage its authors despite trying to benefit from their work.

  • Also, your characterization of "output" isn't sufficiently accurate to characterize the AGPL. The AGPL describes it as "interaction with your program over the network," which could also be seen as "output." – Robert Harvey Oct 26 '17 at 15:28
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    @RobertHarvey: read the text of the AGPL section 13. The OP created a singular PDF file that he wants to use in other works. The AGPL makes no stipulations over how that PDF, or others created through someone using the program, are licensed. Section 2 states "The output from running a covered work is covered by this License only if the output, given its content, constitutes a covered work." which is identical to the regular GPL, and only applies when the program copies part of its source into the output, like in many lexers. – whatsisname Oct 26 '17 at 15:38
  • Yes, that's the section 13 I read as well. It also says "Notwithstanding any other provision of this License," which suggests that the "interaction with your program over the network" stipulation takes precedence. See, this is what happens when software developers without a law degree attempt to answer law-related questions, and why licensing questions are off-topic here. – Robert Harvey Oct 26 '17 at 15:43
  • @RobertHarvey: you're arguing that creating a PDF, putting it into some build script and packaging it into some software, is "interaction over the network" with the originating software. I don't need a law degree to conclude that claim is nonsensical. – whatsisname Oct 26 '17 at 15:47
  • Thank you both for the discussion. As far as I understood, the answer to my question is “it’s complicated”. Fortunately, my documents (two of them, US Letter and A4) are simple, they only contain some procedurally-generated vector geometry, and a couple of text labels. I’ve replaced the library with the older version, with less restrictive LGPL license. – Soonts Oct 26 '17 at 15:54

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