I already searched the site, but I could only find answers relating to using GPL libraries in software that people were going to sell/distribute. In this case the answer is that they must also make the source code available.

What about SaaS? That is, I'll be building an app that clients will pay a monthly fee to use over the Internet, and they won't download anything or get access to the code.


  1. In this case am I allowed to use full GPL libraries without having to make my source code available?

  2. Is there some other restriction/requirement of the GPL that I should be aware even if my model is SaaS?

1 Answer 1


As long as you don't distribute your binaries, there is no problem with using GPL libraries (or other code) in an otherwise closed-source project.

As far as the regular GPL and LGPL are concerned, providing access to use your software over a network (like in SaaS) is not considered distribution. This means that there is no problem with using (L)GPL libraries in a closed-source SaaS project.

What you have to watch out for are libraries that have an AGPL (Affero GPL) licence. In the AGPL license, SaaS is considered distribution and requires you to provide your users access to your source code.

  • Does that also apply to GPLv2? Apr 27, 2018 at 9:24
  • 2
    @long-lazuli: It applies to all licenses. Clauses that require the distribution of source code do not come into effect until you distribute something. Apr 28, 2018 at 6:35
  • I read somewhere that JS getting downloaded on a user's browser is also "distribution", which is prevalent in SAAS world. Would that make it illegal to keep your app closed source? Talking about GPL not AGPL. Apr 13, 2020 at 14:36
  • @SaqibAhmed By distributing your JavaScript to the user's browser, aren't you effectively sharing your source? How do you even keep your web client code closed source?
    – Rikki
    Jun 17, 2020 at 17:32
  • @Rikki I'm not sure whether uglified/minified/obfuscated code sharing is technically considered "open-source" or not. Jun 17, 2020 at 18:53

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