I found an open issue in a GitHub repository requesting a permissive license for the project to be used by other people. It was answered by saying that they will put an MIT License, but was not done yet.

There are no license files in the project nor any notice within its files.

Is it safe to fork the project, add an MIT license.md file and send a pull request of the License to the project?

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    You can send a pull request for anything you like. Some are more likely to be accepted than others. Commented May 14, 2022 at 12:49
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    If the project has no license declaration (and you are not the sole copyright holder) you should not use it, and you should not send a pull request. In fact, nobody should use it until the authors have stated under which license they have published the code. Commented May 14, 2022 at 12:50
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    @PhilipKendall while I agree in principle, I think a PR for a license change should not come from anyone else than one of the maintainers; on GH it effectively means that you create a public fork with a changed license - a license you have no right to attach to the project files. Commented May 14, 2022 at 12:54

1 Answer 1


As we have already said, since there is no licence attached to this code, the starting position is that you have no rights to copy or use it. However, as we have also noted, GitHub's terms of service require anyone publishing publicly on the site to permit other GitHub users to locally-fork the code, using the site's fork button.

So you definitely have a right to create a GitHub-hosted fork of the code, in order that you can add the licence and submit a pull request (which as Philip Kendall notes above, anyone may do for any reason!). But you may not distribute this code to anyone else, so a public repository would be a mistake (and, indeed, a violation of the original rightsholder's copyright). I don't know if the GitHub site mechanics let you submit a PR from a private repo, but if they don't, GitHub-forking is not the way to go.

It may be that the rightsholder has already expressed a clear desire to release this code under MIT. Licensing doesn't require anything more than a clearly-expressed grant on the part of the rightsholder, so if (s)he has been clear about releasing the existing code under MIT, and has so far simply failed to add the actual licence text, then you could reasonably take and use it under those terms now. That is ground whose solidity you will want to be sure of before you stand on it, though, and you don't link to the project or to that discussion, so we can't comment on the specifics of this particular case.

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