I'm writing a web app for my University that will be accessible to the entire uni. One of the things I'm negotiating for is to retain the copyright without giving it to the Uni. The Uni on the other hand is concerned that if I do retain the copyright, they will not have the legal right to use the code later. A middleground I can think of is to license the code using an OSS license.

I want to force them to open source the code once I graduate. I will make this clear to them.

Can I use AGPLv3 for this situation? TLDR: Can I use AGPLv3 on code that won't be open sourced for a while if I'm the original author and none of the code code used has come from copyleft sources?

Is there anything else I can do in this situation?

I know that if my code depends on AGPL code and is hosted on a publicly accessible server, I must open source it. I also do understand that what I'm doing might go against the spirit of OSS.

1 Answer 1


As long as you are the author, you can dictate the conditions under which your work is being used. The limits here might only be for you in this case employment obligations and contract law.

That said, if you are the sole author, you can safely apply the AGPL to your code and host the software without publishing it - you are not bound by your own license. Others who host your software will have to follow the terms of AGPL and make the source available.

Now, the university hosting your code is not you. But you as employee can give them a license which exempts them from the obligations of the AGPL as long as they employ you or whatever you write in the contract with your university.

If you are not the sole author and use other 3rd-party AGPL code requires you to make available the complete source on the server, including your own contributions. You then also cannot offer your university an exemption to the AGPL obligations.

Usual disclaimer: IANAL

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