[License-review] Approval: Server Side Public License, Version 2 (SSPL v2)

Eliot Horowitz eliot at mongodb.com
Mon Jan 28 21:29:09 UTC 2019

We have spent a significant amount of time over the past couple months
considering the comments posted on license-review regarding the SSPL.  We
have also met with several individual members of the list to get additional
feedback and discuss how we can improve the SSPL.  It has become apparent
from those discussions that confusion around the purpose and intent of the
license remains, and we would like to try to clear up that confusion.

Many people have speculated that we changed our license to drive commercial
license sales. However, our business is focused on selling our hosted cloud
offering, MongoDB Atlas, and subscription packages that include proprietary
software that supports the use of our database, such as MongoDB Ops
Manager. We do not view commercial licensing of the core MongoDB database
server alone to be a primary business driver, nor are we trying to make it
one via this license. As I’ve written before, the aim of the SSPL is to
provide a copyleft license that incentivizes and protects innovative open
source software from the threat of ‘SaaS-capture’ by large cloud vendors.

The circumstances in which the source code sharing provision of SSPL
(Section 13) is triggered are in fact narrower than those of the AGPL.
Applying the SSPL to MongoDB specifically, Section 13 is triggered only in
one specific circumstance -- when someone offers MongoDB as a service by
running and managing MongoDB for third parties. Outside of this, any user
of our software (including a licensee who uses MongoDB as the backend
database for their own SaaS application) does not have to worry about
AGPL’s more general trigger for sharing source code. We know from
experience that many of our potential users found AGPL’s trigger ambiguous,
and we have worked hard to make the SSPL trigger both more specific and
more understandable.

The definition of “making the functionality of the Program . . . available
to third parties as a service” that we included in the second sentence of
Section 13 is meant to describe the concept of offering the Program as a
service in three ways:
- From a technical perspective: “enabling third parties to interact with
the functionality of [MongoDB] remotely through a computer network”;
- From a value-based perspective: “offering a service the value of which
entirely or primarily derives from the value of [MongoDB]”; and
- From a functional perspective: “offering a service that accomplishes for
users the primary purpose of [MongoDB].”

Put another way, Section 13 applies to a licensee that takes MongoDB’s
open-source code and uses it to offer MongoDB as a service to end users --
without adding any material, additional functionality -- such that the main
reason licensee’s end user would use the service would be to obtain the
functionality of MongoDB itself.  In those cases, Section 13 requires the
licensee to contribute to the open source community by making the code
required to run its service available under an OSI- or FSF-approved

For the vast majority of our users, the rules of the road have not changed
or, if anything, have been made easier to manage. It’s harder,
operationally, to determine if you have modified software (the AGPL
trigger), than to determine the overall purpose for which the software is
being used (the SSPL trigger).

Since October, we have had numerous customers and users reach out to
discuss our licensing change and ask whether their products and services
trigger the obligations of Section 13.  In these discussions, we have been
able to explain the changes to Section 13, confirm that they apply only in
a very specific circumstance, and alleviate concerns that ‘normal’ use of
MongoDB internally or as part of a customer’s application triggers Section
13.  We remain optimistic that we can clarify the license and allay the
same concerns in this license-review forum.  To that end, we continue to
digest comments, feedback, and suggestions, and intend to offer revised
language to clarify our intent for your consideration and feedback shortly.


On Tue, Dec 11, 2018 at 1:20 PM Eliot Horowitz <eliot at mongodb.com> wrote:

> Salil Deshpande’s TechCrunch article was raised in a prior posting on this
> list.  To avoid any confusion, we would like to make it clear that Salil is
> not affiliated with MongoDB, and his remarks should not be attributed to
> us.  We would like to point out our response for those that are interested:
> http://www.eliothorowitz.com/blog/2018/12/11/open-source-and-the-sspl/ .
> Mr. Deshpande is focused on issues similar to those we are facing, but he
> has advocated a very different solution: a limited license in the form of
> the Commons Clause.  Limited licenses are nothing new.  MongoDB, on the
> other hand, has gone to significant effort to try to find an innovative
> open source solution to the problem.  We request that members of this list
> keep the discussion on this list focused on the topic of whether the SSPL
> conforms to the Open Source Definition.
> We would also like to address a couple of issues that have been raised
> since our submission of the updated version of the SSPL:
> Members have flagged the fact that the copyleft provisions of SSPL extend
> to other software that is used to make the Program available as a service.
> As we stated in our prior response (
> http://lists.opensource.org/pipermail/license-review_lists.opensource.org/2018-October/003672.html),
> we believe that in the modern context, where linking has been superseded by
> the provision of programs as services and the connection of programs over
> networks as the main form of program combination, this form of copyleft is
> appropriate and conforms to the Open Source Definition.
> Members of the list have also expressed concern about what constitutes
> “Making the functionality of the Program… available as a service.”  We
> would like to note that we have provided specific guidance on this in
> Section 13:
> -----
> Making the functionality of the Program or modified version available to
> third parties as a service includes, without limitation, enabling third
> parties to interact with the functionality of the Program or modified
> version remotely through a computer network, offering a service the value
> of which
>  entirely or primarily derives from the value of the Program or modified
> version, or offering a service that accomplishes for users the primary
> purpose of the Program or modified version.
>  -----
> In contrast, Section 13 of AGPL, the flagship network copyleft license,
> only says “your modified version must prominently offer all users
> interacting with it remotely through a computer network...” with no
> additional guidance as to what that means.  While perhaps not perfect, we
> think that the SSPL language is more detailed and easier to understand. We
> intend for the SSPL to be useable by others who have written other
> software, and to withstand changing interpretation as technology itself
> changes -- that’s a goal of any good open source license.  We cannot do
> that and, simultaneously, remove all doubt as to what constitutes
> software-as-a-service in every instance.
> We realize that during the holiday season the volunteers on this list may
> need more time to comment, and we look forward to more comments and
> discussion in the coming weeks.
> -Eliot
> On Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 5:37 PM Eliot Horowitz <eliot at mongodb.com> wrote:
>> Thank you for your comments on the Server Side Public License.  Below is
>> an updated version of the Server Side Public License, which we are
>> submitting for review in lieu of version 1.0.  If this version is approved
>> by OSI, we plan to apply it to the next release of our MongoDB software,
>> which is currently available under version 1.0.
>> In this version, we have made several significant substantive changes in
>> Section 13, we well as certain conforming and non-substantive changes.
>> Members of the list expressed concerns that compliance with the source
>> code sharing conditions of Section 13 would not be feasible, because in
>> common technology environments today, some parts of the Service Source Code
>> would be proprietary, or subject to incompatible open source licenses.  To
>> address this concern, we have clarified that the source code sharing
>> condition of Section 13 does not require delivery of Major Components or
>> System Libraries. We have also added the option to make the Service Source
>> Code (other than the Corresponding Source for the Program itself) available
>> under OSI or FSF approved licenses, to the extent that the licensee does
>> not have the right to share the Service Source Code under the terms of the
>> SSPL.
>> Members had also expressed concerns about whether the SSPL meets OSD 9 --
>> that the license must not restrict other software.  While we think version
>> 1 met with this plank of the definition, and explained why in our initial
>> submission, we made the changes described above in part to further address
>> this concern, by limiting the source code that must be made available
>> subject to this license and adding the option to make the source code
>> available under other open source licenses.
>> Below is a list of changes.  The revised license appears after the listed
>> changes, in plaintext.
>> Substantive changes:
>> --Version number changed from 1 to 2
>> --Date changed to November [____] 2018
>> --Section 13, first sentence: added “or, solely with respect to any
>> programs (other than the Program or a modified version) for which you do
>> not have the right to make the Corresponding Source available under the
>> terms of this License, under the terms of a license that has been approved
>> by the Open Source Initiative or categorized by the Free Software
>> Foundation as free”
>> --Section 13, second paragraph: added “(other than programs that are
>> Major Components or System Libraries)” after “all programs”
>> --Section 13, second paragraph: “storage software and hosting software”
>> changed to “host orchestration software”
>> Non-substantive and conforming changes:
>> --Definition of This License: added “the”
>> --Section 5, last sentence: “Without limiting section 13,” added
>> --Section 8: “or otherwise use” added in two places
>> --Section 9: added “single” before “copy”
>> --Section 9: “use” added to “propagate or modify” and “using” added to
>> “modifying or propagating”
>> --Section 13: “a” replaces “the” in first line of Service Source Code
>> definition
>> ======================================================================
>> Server Side Public License
>> Copyright © 2018 MongoDB, Inc.
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>> automatically extended to all recipients of the covered work and works
>> based on it.
>> A patent license is “discriminatory” if it does not include within the
>> scope of its coverage, prohibits the exercise of, or is conditioned on the
>> non-exercise of one or more of the rights that are specifically granted
>> under this License. You may not convey a covered work if you are a party to
>> an arrangement with a third party that is in the business of distributing
>> software, under which you make payment to the third party based on the
>> extent of your activity of conveying the work, and under which the third
>> party grants, to any of the parties who would receive the covered work from
>> you, a discriminatory patent license (a) in connection with copies of the
>> covered work conveyed by you (or copies made from those copies), or (b)
>> primarily for and in connection with specific products or compilations that
>> contain the covered work, unless you entered into that arrangement, or that
>> patent license was granted, prior to 28 March 2007.
>> Nothing in this License shall be construed as excluding or limiting any
>> implied license or other defenses to infringement that may otherwise be
>> available to you under applicable patent law.
>> 12. No Surrender of Others' Freedom.
>> If conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or
>> otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not
>> excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot use,
>> propagate or convey a covered work so as to satisfy simultaneously your
>> obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as
>> a consequence you may not use, propagate or convey it at all. For example,
>> if you agree to terms that obligate you to collect a royalty for further
>> conveying from those to whom you convey the Program, the only way you could
>> satisfy both those terms and this License would be to refrain entirely from
>> conveying the Program.
>> 13. Offering the Program as a Service.
>> If you make the functionality of the Program or a modified version
>> available to third parties as a service, you must make the Service Source
>> Code available via network download to everyone at no charge, under the
>> terms of this License or, solely with respect to any programs (other than
>> the Program or a modified version) for which you do not have the right to
>> make the Corresponding Source available under the terms of this License,
>> under the terms of a license that has been approved by the Open Source
>> Initiative or categorized by the Free Software Foundation as free. Making
>> the functionality of the Program or modified version available to third
>> parties as a service includes, without limitation, enabling third parties
>> to interact with the functionality of the Program or modified version
>> remotely through a computer network, offering a service the value of which
>> entirely or primarily derives from the value of the Program or modified
>> version, or offering a service that accomplishes for users the primary
>> purpose of the Program or modified version.
>> “Service Source Code” means the Corresponding Source for the Program or a
>> modified version, and the Corresponding Source for all programs (other than
>> programs that are Major Components or System Libraries) that you use to
>> make the Program or modified version available as a service, including,
>> without limitation, management software, user interfaces, application
>> program interfaces, automation software, monitoring software, backup
>> software, and host orchestration software, all such that a user could run
>> an instance of the service using the Service Source Code you make
>> available.
>> 14. Revised Versions of this License.
>> MongoDB, Inc. may publish revised and/or new versions of the Server Side
>> Public License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in
>> spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new
>> problems or concerns.
>> Each version is given a distinguishing version number. If the Program
>> specifies that a certain numbered version of the Server Side Public License
>> “or any later version” applies to it, you have the option of following the
>> terms and conditions either of that numbered version or of any later
>> version published by MongoDB, Inc. If the Program does not specify a
>> version number of the Server Side Public License, you may choose any
>> version ever published by MongoDB, Inc.
>> If the Program specifies that a proxy can decide which future versions of
>> the Server Side Public License can be used, that proxy's public statement
>> of acceptance of a version permanently authorizes you to choose that
>> version for the Program.
>> Later license versions may give you additional or different permissions.
>> However, no additional obligations are imposed on any author or copyright
>> holder as a result of your choosing to follow a later version.
>> 15. Disclaimer of Warranty.
>> 16. Limitation of Liability.
>> 17. Interpretation of Sections 15 and 16.
>> If the disclaimer of warranty and limitation of liability provided above
>> cannot be given local legal effect according to their terms, reviewing
>> courts shall apply local law that most closely approximates an absolute
>> waiver of all civil liability in connection with the Program, unless a
>> warranty or assumption of liability accompanies a copy of the Program in
>> return for a fee.
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