Use of owncloud server (with AGPL license) in commercial cloud infrastructure

Thank you so much for the great software package that you have made. I am planning to use it for commercial purposes in my new SAS startup project.

The software infrastructure looks like this:

1- An internet-facing version of owncloud server where users upload their files (files are then uploaded to AWS S3 buckets )
2- Owncloud server triggers an API call to an internal server X (which may or may not be accessible by internet users ) that processes the uploaded files. (for example, for document files, flags them, modify the files and annotate them)
3- The server X communicates with owncloud server to let it know when the process is done with some additional information on how the files should be served to the user.
4- The modified owncloud server then serves the files that have been processed with the provided information by server X. (The modified owncloud code is somehow dependent on the information provided by server X to properly serve the files.)

Question: I am more than happy to publish the modified version of owncloud as AGPL but is it acceptable to keep the server X closed source? Is there anything else that I need to consider? Any documentation to support your claims? Is there any other similar service that does this?

p.s. I am aware of the owncloud’s commercial plans and at the same time, the question is out of respect to FOSS. So, I appreciate it if we don’t discuss these topics.

Hi, no response so I decided to NOT use OwnCloud for my startup after reading this page in opensource google, unless owncloud become a bit transparent and clear on what is allowed and what is not allowed.

WARNING: Code licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL) MUST NOT be used at Google.

The license places restrictions on software used over a network which are extremely difficult for Google to comply with. Using AGPL software requires that anything it links to must also be licensed under the AGPL. Even if you think you aren’t linking to anything important, it still presents a huge risk to Google because of how integrated much of our code is. The risks heavily outweigh the benefits.

The primary risk presented by AGPL is that any product or service that depends on AGPL-licensed code, or includes anything copied or derived from AGPL-licensed code, may be subject to the virality of the AGPL license. This viral effect requires that the complete corresponding source code of the product or service be released to the world under the AGPL license. This is triggered if the product or service can be accessed over a remote network interface, so it does not even require that the product or service is actually distributed. Because Google’s core products are services that users interact with over a remote network interface (Search, Gmail, Maps, YouTube), the consequences of an engineer accidentally depending on AGPL for one of these services are so great that we maintain an aggressively-broad ban on all AGPL software to doubly-ensure that AGPL could never be incorporated in these services in any manner.

  • Do not attempt to check AGPL-licensed code into google3 or use it in a Google product in any way.
  • Do not install AGPL-licensed programs on your workstation, Google-issued laptop, or Google-issued phone without explicit authorization from the Open Source Programs Office.

In some cases, we may have alternative licenses available for AGPL licensed code.


sorry to see you leaving, but it can not be the job of the ownCloud project to explain the free software licenses to users in detail. That is a huge topic, and discussed in many places over and over. If you are going to start a commercial entity I’d recommend to get familiar.

See for example All About Copyleft Licenses - FOSSA
The google page you cited represents only one view on the whole game.

Apart from that, if you think about to do changes that you do not have to open up you could consider the commercial offering of and talk to a sales person of the company. There are possibilities to do that.


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Thanks for your explanation @dragotin.

it can not be the job of the ownCloud project to explain the free software licenses to users in detail.

I didn’t ask anyone to explain the free software licenses, instead I clearly explained my special situation in detail and mainly asked if I can keep the server that communicate with ownCloud closed source.

The google page you cited represents only one view on the whole game.

As you mentioned there are several views and and I still have not got OwnCloud view on this :slight_smile: .
If the license is clear, there has to be a clear answer (either Yes or No) to my question (unless I didn’t explain my case clearly?)

Thanks again for your great product.

Hi, sorry for the late reply.

Really, license topics are complicated, and nobody but a lawyer will give you a clear Yes or No on this.

My personal bet (without being a lawyer or making an official statement for the company here) would be that your setup is perfectly fine from the FOSS point of view, assuming that you call HTTP based APIs. I don’t think that the sources of service X have to be opened up.

But again: This is not a reliable statement, but just my humble open source guy understanding. Sorry that I can not give more.

Again, if you want to discuss that further, please contact the company via Contact us - ownCloud and have a conversation. That should not hurt.


I contacted the company as you suggested (ans shared this link with them). I hope they come back with clarification so that I can share their response here.

Update: @dragotin So far after over 10 days, I received absolutely no response from them.

I’d highly recommend to not to contact Scott2505 or even send some information. This account was created just now and absolutely does not look like an ownCloud member.
To me this looks like a spammer/phisher


I contacted our presales department who will be in touch with your shortly to clarify this issue. Sorry for the delay and inconvenience.

@dmitry thanks for the response. After 11 days of waiting I have NOT received any response.

I just asked again.

Your question is hard to answer, our technical people as wells as our sales people aren’t able to get you a response.

My suggestion would be to ask a lawyer. If you are planning to start something commercial - legal advice would not hurt, right?

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Thanks @dmitry ,
I understand the situation. Legal advice is definitely necessary but I thought I can get a better and more clear answer from OWNCLOUD’s legal team who are familiar and are experienced with the OC software rather me trying to
1- Explain the OC to another lawyer
2- Explain what I am trying to do
3- Interpret the lawyers responses and communicate them with investors, etc.

Anyways, thanks for your response.

Any modifications to ownCloud Server or Web Frontend must be published, correct. As long as your server X only works with ownCloud through the APIs there is no need to publish that piece of your solution.
As you know we offer a dual-license for ownCloud Server under an ownCloud Enterprise Edition and also additional features as part of such a subscription.
Hope this answers your question.
This is stated in the AGPLv3 and our ownCloud Commercial License …

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Thanks @hodyroff for the clear and formal response. This will allows me to move forward and I will definitely consider using the commercial edition once the project start growing.

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So, how’s your experience with it if you’re using this?

As I’m having a bad experience with my previous hosting as they get choked once the users intensity increases.

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