I have a research-related project which currently has one developer (myself) and one sponsor (myself). It involves an open-source platform (AGPL3), and user submitted content which has its open-source licenses defined individually.

The project is 100% free, and I will be funding it till I find a sponsor to cover running costs (such as a public institution or foundation, i.e. not a for-profit company).

I also have other projects which are not free or open-source. The question is what are the ethics/legal pitfalls of linking these projects. How is this affected by contributions to the platform of the open-source project? How is it affected by sponsors? I can imagine that so long as I host the open-source project, there should be no issue in linking them, similarly to wordpress.org/wordpress.com.

My priorities here are not to maintain a link between the projects, but to make sure that I am not doing anything illegal in benefiting from my contribution (infrastructure rather than code in this case) to the free project by linking to the commercial project, AND to protect the free project from ever being commercialised.

An associated question is whether there are any other protections necessary for the free project, such as registering a trademark, which will prevent it being replaced by a for-profit project.

  • 4
    Could you be more clear about what you mean by "linking these projects"? Are you suggesting that you might host the non-free codebases on equipment funded by others for the purpose of hosting the free codebase?
    – MadHatter
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 11:27
  • Are you asking if it is OK to host a non open source project using your open source (AGPL) software platform/service?
    – Brandin
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 11:28
  • @MadHattersupportsMonica I certainly wouldn't misuse resources in this way, the question is relevant so long as the same entity funds both projects. By linking, I mean, for instance, that the free web service would have links to paid services in order to complete certain tasks. I suppose in the same way that someone would offer a linux image for deploying their open-source project on amazon web services and link to deploying a server on amazon. In my case, since there is a common interest between the projects it seems this would in the very least constitute advertising/affiliation.
    – blobber2
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 13:32
  • 2
    Thanks, that's clearer. Depending on what is passed over these "links", and thus the degree of tightness of integration of the non-free services into the AGPL codebase, you may be heading into a world of trouble with contributors, since once you have accepted contributions on those terms the AGPL becomes binding on you also.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 13:42
  • 1
    Over and above the FSF's writings on GPL and plugins, it's hard to recommend anything specific, because the question is still pretty nebulous. You know your code best. If you read what the FSF has to say about sharing complex data structures, and at the end of that you don't believe that's the sort of relationship between your AGPL code and your proprietary web service, you don't have an issue. If you think it is that sort of relationship, then you probably do have an issue.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 20:57


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