MongoDB Changes License
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Monday, 22 October 2018

MongoDB has revamped its open source license type in an attempt to prevent commercial organizations in Asia using the database commercially without sticking to the open source rules.

The problem MongoDB has had is that some cloud service providers have been offering the Community Edition of its database as a service to clients. In a bid to prevent this happening, the database company has issued a new software license called the Server Side Public License (SSPL). This will apply to all new releases of its MongoDB Community Server, as well as all patch fixes for prior versions. Until now, MongoDB has been using the GNU AGPLv3 license.

In practical terms, this doesn't make a lot of difference to most users as the changes to the license terms don't apply to them. The changes are only designed to apply to companies who want to run MongoDB as a publicly available service. In a statement, MongoDB said:

“MongoDB was previously licensed under the GNU AGPLv3, which meant companies who wanted to run MongoDB as a publicly available service had to open source their software or obtain a commercial license from MongoDB. However, MongoDB’s popularity has led some organizations to test the boundaries of the GNU AGPLv3.”

The key part of the new license is that anyone can use, modify and redistribute the code, but if anyone who wants to offer MongoDB as a service, they either need to change to use a commercial license, or provide the service as an open source benefit for the community.

Explaining the decision, Eliot Horowitz, CTO and co-founder of MongoDB, said:

"The revenue generated by a service can be a great source of funding for open source projects, far greater than what has historically been available. The reality, however, is that once an open source project becomes interesting, it is too easy for large cloud vendors to capture most of the value while contributing little or nothing back to the community."

He continued:

"Since we own 100% of the copyright of MongoDB, one option available to us was to convert our open source license to a closed source license. We chose not to because we fundamentally believe in open source software."

While the announcement of the new license terms has made some open source users annoyed, the real targets of the move seem likely to ignore it; large companies, particularly in China, may well continue to offer MongoDB as a commercial service on the basis MongoDB is unlikely to win an action in the Chinese courts. It'll be interesting to see the eventual outcome. 



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