Server Side Public License
|Software Package Data Exchange identifier||SSPL-1.0|
|Debian Free Software Guidelines compatible||No|
|Open Source Initiative approved||No|
The Server Side Public License (SSPL) is a rather restrictive copyleft license written by the American software corporation MongoDB Incorporated. It was introduced in 2018. The license terms are, in general, very similar to the GNU Affero General Public License v3.0. Both licenses require that anyone who uses software licensed under them to serve network services make the source code available. The SSPL differs from the GNU AGPL license by going further: It requires that the source code for all server-side parts of any setup using software licensed under the SSPL is made available. That makes it impractical and, in many cases, completely unfeasible to use software licensed under the SSPL.
Server Side Public License is not widely adopted. MongoDB uses it, which isn't a huge shock since MongoDB Inc created the license specifically for it. ElasticSearch has also opted to use the SSPL.
The SSPL is generally a fine license, and it sounds wonderful until you get to the SSPL licenses term 13: 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.
“Service Source Code” means the Corresponding Source for the Program or the modified version, and the Corresponding Source for all programs 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, storage software and hosting software, all such that a user could run an instance of the service using the Service Source Code you make available."
Put simply, term 13 means that you have to make the source code for your entire stack, from top to bottom, available if you use any SSPL licensed program anywhere in your deployment. That's great from a free software idealists perspective, but it makes it very difficult to use SSPL licensed software in most real-world deployments.
The Amazon corporation has made an effort to make forks of software projects who adopt the SSPL license. They forked MongoDB and called their fork DocumentDB when MongoDB re-licensed, and they forked ElasticSearch and called their fork OpenSearch on April 12th, 2021.
There are quite a few who have gone so far as to call the SSPL a proprietary software license due to it's rather restrictive nature. That's going a bit far. However, it is reasonable to say that the SSPL is far more restrictive than the BSD licenses and the Apache Licenses. Read the full license text below and judge for yourself.
Server Side Public License
VERSION 1, OCTOBER 16, 2018
Copyright © 2018 MongoDB, Inc.
Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS
“This License” refers to Server Side Public License.
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a) Disclaiming warranty or limiting liability differently from the terms of sections 15 and 16 of this License; or
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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. 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 the modified version, and the Corresponding Source for all programs 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, storage software and hosting 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.
THERE IS NO WARRANTY FOR THE PROGRAM, TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW. EXCEPT WHEN OTHERWISE STATED IN WRITING THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND/OR OTHER PARTIES PROVIDE THE PROGRAM “AS IS” WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. THE ENTIRE RISK AS TO THE QUALITY AND PERFORMANCE OF THE PROGRAM IS WITH YOU. SHOULD THE PROGRAM PROVE DEFECTIVE, YOU ASSUME THE COST OF ALL NECESSARY SERVICING, REPAIR OR CORRECTION.
16. Limitation of Liability.
IN NO EVENT UNLESS REQUIRED BY APPLICABLE LAW OR AGREED TO IN WRITING WILL ANY COPYRIGHT HOLDER, OR ANY OTHER PARTY WHO MODIFIES AND/OR CONVEYS THE PROGRAM AS PERMITTED ABOVE, BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR DAMAGES, INCLUDING ANY GENERAL, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF THE USE OR INABILITY TO USE THE PROGRAM (INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO LOSS OF DATA OR DATA BEING RENDERED INACCURATE OR LOSSES SUSTAINED BY YOU OR THIRD PARTIES OR A FAILURE OF THE PROGRAM TO OPERATE WITH ANY OTHER PROGRAMS), EVEN IF SUCH HOLDER OR OTHER PARTY HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.
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.
END OF TERMS AND CONDITIONS