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I m thinking of using iTextSharp, which is licensed under Affero GPL, in an internal closed-source WinForms project. No one outside my company will be using it.

GPL (and Affero GPL as well) typically demands that the source be provided with the binary. Given that this is an internal project, do I need to provide my employees with the source code of the project?

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If you confine use of the library to within the walls of your corporation, you do not have to distribute the source (even to your employees), because you are not redistributing (selling or giving away a software product that includes the library) outside of your organization.

The GPL allows you to freely use the code inside a corporation without restrictions, and that includes (by necessity) your ability to prevent your employees (as a matter of company policy) from distributing the source code outside the organization.

From the Gnu Licensing FAQ:

Is making and using multiple copies within one organization or company “distribution”?
No, in that case the organization is just making the copies for itself. As a consequence, a company or other organization can develop a modified version and install that version through its own facilities, without giving the staff permission to release that modified version to outsiders.

However, when the organization transfers copies to other organizations or individuals, that is distribution. In particular, providing copies to contractors for use off-site is distribution.

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  • 2
    The AGPL has a few more restrictions, if you distribute a service generated from an AGPL app then you are distributing the app. Aug 12 '11 at 3:31
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    @martin: Yes, but if you are using the site or service internally (i.e. it's on the intranet, and not on an internet-facing web server), then it is not considered redistribution, and you are still OK. The GPL differs from the AGPL in that, if you are using open-source software to run a public web site or service, the GPL doesn't consider the use of that site or service by the public redistribution, but the AGPL does. Aug 12 '11 at 3:33
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    your answer is correct. I was just pointing out that you linked to the GPL not AGPL faq, although for this use the difference doesn't matter Aug 12 '11 at 12:32
  • It doesn't matter anyway. A license cannot set its own scope, and whether you are 'distributing' the software or not is a question of license scope. (Copyright law says you cannot distribute a work without a license.) By law, if you are not making the copyrighted work itself available, you are not distributing it. Aug 13 '11 at 12:58
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    @David - the license can set any requirements it wants. I can licence my software not to be used commercially, not to be used to control nuclear power stations, or not for use by ginger haired people. The license can apply to the use of the software and it's output - not just it's own distribution Aug 14 '11 at 15:39
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You have to offer to supply the source and any modifications - to anyone you distribute the binary to.
Since you only distribute it to users inside your company that shouldn't be too much of a problem !

note: the AGPL is basically the GPL with the addition that you consider web users of a service based on the code to have had the software distributed to them - and so get the source.

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Sorry guys, I have to tell you are wrong.

I have had several e-mail contacts with iText this week

With AGPL, even "If you confine use of the library to within the walls of your corporation" , if you do not want to open your source code, you DO need a commercial licence.

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  • is this merely your opinion or you can back it up somehow?
    – gnat
    Jun 29 '18 at 16:21
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    Sounds like there is a chance the iText people may have either misinterpreted the question, or may not have fully understood the AGPL when they chose it. They may want to change the license if they realize that the license doesn't mean what they thought it does. See for ref, the AGPL FAQ at affero.org/oagf.html Q: How does this license treat commercial enterprise use over intranets and internal networks? A: Simply, if run internally to a commercial company, then the company isn't required to release source code back to the world.
    – mindcrime
    Jun 29 '18 at 17:54
  • @pierre-vievier I think this is on purpose because the more user will buy a license. As always in life: do a fact checking for yourself as mindcrime indicated...
    – Lonzak
    Aug 13 '18 at 12:11

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