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For GitHub projects that are not using a license like MIT that let you copy code without having to copy the terms of the license forward, how does it affect that the yml code included in their GitHub Actions workflows?

Is this code covered by the license the project uses, or is does GitHub have a clause in their Terms of Service for GitHub Actions workflows that supersedes the license and makes the yml code for said workflows exempt?

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Only the copyright holder can decide the license of a work. When one uploads to GitHub, one grants GitHub some rights to use the code (e.g., to store and process it, to copy it, etc.) which would otherwise be infringed by copyright, but those rights don't include allowing others to exercise those rights without restriction. If that were the case, many users would not be willing to upload their code to GitHub, and in many cases, uploading content to GitHub would violate the terms of the license if there were outside contributors who hadn't agreed to those terms.

Typically, the license in a repository covers the entire project including CI scripts and other tools, but if you're unsure, you should ask. Asking politely about licensing in an appropriate forum to make sure you understand is generally fine and most projects will appreciate that you are trying to do your best to honor the terms of their license.

Note that the MIT License does require you to reproduce the copyright and license as a condition (that's the second paragraph). However, if your project is already MIT licensed, you can just add the copyright notice to your existing copyright notice, since you're already distributing the license.

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  • This does not answer my question. I'm asking if GitHub Actions files are exempt due to factors like the Terms of Service.
    – Vopel
    Nov 20 at 0:44
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    That's answered by the first paragraph. They are not and any attempt to use the ToS to make them so would likely make uploading code to GitHub violate the rights of copyright holders to the project.
    – bk2204
    Nov 20 at 1:29

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