There is a github repository licensed under the MIT license. Can I download just 1 bash script and use it (execute) without copying the license file somewhere? The script itself doesn't provide any comments about this.

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

1 Answer 1


Free and open source licenses like the MIT license you quote are copyright licenses: they permit you to do something that, by the default under copyright law, you wouldn't usually be allowed to do. For example, making and distributing copies of a work to other people, in original or modified form, is the exclusive right of the copyright holder of a work. A free/open license is an allowance from the copyright holder that permits you to do that, possibly with some requirements (like preserving license text, among other things).

However, downloading and executing a copy of a work that the copyright holder has offered to you, without modifying it or distributing any other copies of it, does not require any special permission under copyright law. Therefore, you do not need to rely on the MIT license grant to do this action, so you similarly don't need to comply with any requirements included in the license grant. You do not need to keep a copy of the license unless you plan to redistribute the work to others.

  • 1
    So regardless of the license I can freely download and execute any project on GitHub that doesn't state otherwise?
    – user28273
    Oct 25, 2022 at 17:46
  • If you are not distributing it or exposing it externally, yes. See also softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/a/323873/356721
    – parvus
    Oct 26, 2022 at 9:05
  • @user28273 For GitHub specifically, see docs.github.com/en/site-policy/github-terms/…, where it says generally "By setting your repositories to be viewed publicly, you agree to allow others to view and "fork" your repositories (this means that others may make their own copies of Content from your repositories in repositories they control)." I believe that statement takes precedence even if no license declaration appears in the GitHub (public) repo.
    – Brandin
    Oct 26, 2022 at 11:33
  • If you "fork" the repo locally onto your own PC, then one could make an argument that that's also a repository you control. If you don't use the "fork" feature to accomplish that action, maybe it's technically a violation (e.g. if you just download the zip file and unzip it) but it's something that's only relevant in theory. No one is going to take you to court over it, for example, because I think clearly the intention of publicizing something on GitHub is to allow you to at least download it for your own use (and in the case that it wasn't clear -- it's stated explicitly in the ToS).
    – Brandin
    Oct 26, 2022 at 11:37

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