I created a fork of a repository that hadn't received a commit in ~4 years. Three weeks ago (and after a 7 year hiatus), the repository owner deleted the MIT license in the repository.

The commits I made to that fork were made months before the deletion of the license, so I should be legally fine. However, I'm curious as to the legal status of a repository that deleted its license. Am I legally able to commit to my fork? Do I have to delete my license.txt?

  • 1
    IANAL, but: They can't take back the usage conditions that they once offered to you. So you can continue to use/modify/distribute your copy as is. You may not fork the repo in its current state however. (It might be okay to fork the current repo if you only use older commits that still had the license. But that is not necessary in your case as you already forked it when it was clearly available with the license.) If they actually continue development then the new changes are also off limits.
    – ecm
    Apr 3, 2022 at 7:17
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    @ecm GitHub TOS specifically allow you to view and fork repositories if you've made them public on their site, regardless of whether or not there is a license on your repo.
    – Brandin
    Apr 14, 2022 at 9:20

1 Answer 1


Open source licenses are irrevocable so therefore you can use any code which was at any point in time available under the MIT license - which in your case pretty clearly means anything up until the license was deleted from the repository. That code is available to you under the MIT license, so you must still comply with the conditions of the license; in particular, this means you must not delete your copy of the MIT license.

The code (if any) added to the repository after the deletion of the license file is not available for you to use.

  • The author hasn't added any commits since the license's removal, FYI.
    – elijahpepe
    Apr 6, 2022 at 1:46
  • Even if the code has no stated license, if it's posted publicly on GitHub, then the GitHub terms of service still allow you to use all publicly posted code on their site in various other ways. For example, GitHub specifically allows you to use the "fork" button to fork the repository. When you post anything on GitHub publicly, you as the author have to agree to let all users do those things as a condition of posting your code there publicly.
    – Brandin
    Apr 14, 2022 at 9:15

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