[License-discuss] Clarity on Licensing for SaaS

Bryan Masterson bryanmasterson1974 at gmail.com
Wed Oct 12 12:02:49 UTC 2022

I have struggled to find clarity on how licensing applies to Software as a
Service (SaaS), perhaps this list can help!

I understand that if there is say a jQuery function on github, for example
to make a nice file upload widget, that is effectively the "distribution",
and if I make a copy and modify it, and publish on github, I have to keep
the original licence in there, and that is then my distribution.

But what if one is not "distributing" in the well understood way?

As a hypothetical example, I want to sell SaaS that allows users to upload
a pdf, which will replace complex words with simpler words.  I have a
clever bit of code, in python, using a MySQL DB, that used machine learning
or something, to enable this to work in context and it's taken 100 dev
years of effort to get there, so I am going commercial with it.

So I have a site, running on my server, in my data centre on Debian, using
apache, MySQL, Python, nodeJS
On the site, I use that jQuery upload widget I modified from someone else's
licenced code.
I have installed say CPAN::PDF-to-Text, and a nodeJS package text2PDF -
both of which have licence on them.

Users come to my site, which includes jQuery and the widget - both are in
the browser source, and therefore have their licence data displayed, but
the modules, and the OS, and the DB software are never actually

So how do open source licences apply in this case?  Do I have to publish a
list on my website of things I am using?  That could create security
risks.  Or do they only apply if I sell the software to someone else to
host on their site?  I have a mixture of my IP that I don't want to reveal
publicly, with open source software that makes it all work.

I haven't really found anything that clearly explains how the licencing
works in this case, only when "distributing software", which to me means
sharing/selling the software to someone...

If there's something out that that does clearly explain this, then
apologies for missing it!

Hope you can help.  Bryan.
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