We're using a number of open source libraries in our software. They all fall under one of the following 3 licenses:

  • MIT License
  • Apache License 2.0
  • BSD 3-Clause License

These are all very liberal licenses and allow us to use the libraries free of charge in our commercial product.

I'm happy to give credit to the original author and to include the license information in the source, but I'm wondering how is this best achieved and what am I obliged to do?

As the open source libraries run on my server, I don't actually redistribute the open source code at all.

Do I need to provide a link on my site to a page that lists the open source projects we use? Or do I just need to leave the license information in the source code, even though it won't be read by anyone.

  • 1
    Note by definition, all Free and Open Source licences let you use the software in commercial products, and with out paying a fee to be allowed to. What you are sometimes not allowed to do (depending on licence), is to make the product proprietary. That is you are not allowed to take away the freedoms for the person that you give the software to (this applies to copy-left licences). Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 18:24

1 Answer 1


Since you don't distribute the software, you have no distribution-related obligations. (However, double-check if this really true. Notably, if you're running a Web service, check if any licensed code ends up on the user's computer as part of the material served by the Web service. In any case, you have obligations related only to only the material you actually send.)

Generally speaking, when you distribute free and open source software that is under a permissive license, you usually have to

  1. preserve copyright notices (and maybe project names), and
  2. include the license text.

The specifics may vary slightly from license to license. If you don't distribute source, you can include this information in a manual or documentation.

Another large category of free and open licenses is copyleft licenses, which come with an additional obligation to distribute source any time you distribute the work (or a derivative) in binary form. The most well-known copyleft license is the GNU GPL, but there are many others. None of the licenses you list are copyleft licenses, but this may be helpful to know if you later do use code under a copyleft license.

Again, since you don't perform distribution, you don't have these obligations.

The only FLOSS license (as far as I know) that could impose requirements on you is the Affero GPL (AGPL), which imposes copyleft requirements whenever you offer interaction with a modified version over a network. If you chose to include AGPL code in your service, you might be obligated to supply the source code of your service even if you did never distributed your code.

  • This might be a stupid question, does the source code disclosure apply for any non-distributive non-opensource projects under licenses like AGPL? I hope it isn't against the site rules to ask about an open-source project with a tiny non-opensource service. Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 22:00
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    @Phani When you say "non-distributive non-opensource projects under licenses like AGPL" do you mean "I have a project whose source code I don't wish to distribute and this project includes someone else's AGPL-licensed code"? Asking about what the AGPL does and doesn't require is generally on-topic for the site, so you could just make a new question post (if I understand your question correctly). Definitely mention the composition of your project and how it uses or offers network services. You can link to this question when you ask your new question, if you want.
    – apsillers
    Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 0:23

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