Lets say you don't use a license for your open source project. And you don't put anything about a license anywhere in the code..is this okay to do?

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    "Lets say you don't use a license for your open source project." An open source project without a license is an oxymoron. It isn't open source at all. May 30 '11 at 4:33
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    Well, its undefined. Its neither open or closed. May 30 '11 at 8:35
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    Actually, under the Berne convention, copyright is automatic, and licenses need to be granted. With the common definitions of Open Source, that means any source is automatically closed source.
    – MSalters
    Jul 17 '12 at 11:36

Legally, in many (most?) jurisdictions you maintain copyright on what you create even if you do not specifically claim it.

As a result, if you haven't given permission to copy your code, people must legally assume that they do not have such permission. Putting a license with your code is merely a written statement outlining what you give permission to do with your code.

If you don't have a written statement like that, lawyers might get nervous because you could sue users of your code claiming that they didn't actually have permission to use it.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice.

  • +1, I would assume the same, as open source software can be proprietary. It only means that someone can view the source (e.g. to get confident about the quality and security), but says not much about usage rights.
    – hakre
    Jun 4 '11 at 9:10
  • I'm also not a lawyer, but I believe you made a mistake. I think it means people can use the code under whatever circumstances your website implies it can be used. Which is excellent grounds for a horrible lawsuit where neither party has a leg to stand on. May 10 '12 at 23:24

Yes it's perfectly fine to do. You aren't obligated in any way to specify license.

However, if any of the code you are writing is from other projects that DO specify a license, you need to make sure you include the license in your project as well.


Of course it's okay - it's your code, you can do whatever you want with it. However, if you don't specify a licence, the defaults defined by copyright law apply to your code. This may or may not be what you want. For instance, it usually means that your users cannot redistribute your code. That's a legitimate choice, but it's not what people expect when you call your application "open source".

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