• Say someone puts their code on GitHub, under the MIT license.
  • Then I forked it and use it in my project.
  • Then they change the license so that it has a strict license that does not give permission to modify, sell, etc...

Would the new license apply to my code, since the code I have was from before they changed the license?

  • 2
    possible duplicate of What happens when a project switches to a different license?
    – user53019
    Commented Oct 2, 2013 at 20:11
  • 1
    Clarification: Copyright and licensing, although related, are quite separate. Wording of your third bullet point indicates this is not entirely clear to you. Copyright - who owns the source, License - terms and conditions under which you can use that source.
    – mattnz
    Commented Oct 2, 2013 at 23:46
  • @mattnz good catch! I'll fix that
    – giant91
    Commented Oct 3, 2013 at 1:40

3 Answers 3


With a typical open source license, the license does not allow the copyright holder to revoke the license, so you can continue to use the code under the original license terms. However, some licenses may allow the copyright holder to revoke the license. You should check with a lawyer if you find yourself in this situation.


I am not a lawyer. If you have real questions on this, talk to a lawyer.

I am working under the assumption that the individual who has the github repo is the sole copyright owner (be it creator, or assignee) of the code.

Code is licensed as it is published. This is part of contract law. You have a license to it and that doesn't change. It has been ruled that that all retroactive copyright transfers and licenses are invalid.

the court found that retroactive transfers violate the basic principles of tort and contract law, and undermine the policies embodied by the Copyright Act.

The license that you have for the code you have you have released to you under that license and may continue to use it under those license terms. The MIT license has no revocation clause as part of it.

The owner of the source, however, can always change licenses going forward, even if it was under a permissive license before. The license is about how the owner allows others to use code he or she has copyrighted. The licenses does not restrict how one uses their own copyrights.

Also look at related


Safe answer:

Consult a Lawyer

Unsafe answer:

The last version/commit under the old license is fair game.

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