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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.

Questions:

  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?

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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? – long-lazuli Apr 27 '18 at 9:24
  • 1
    @long-lazuli: It applies to all licenses. Clauses that require the distribution of source code do not come into effect until you distribute something. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Apr 28 '18 at 6:35

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