I would like to fork a repository on GitHub (let's call this A) so that I can modify a few things. If I were to try and make a pull request, I don't think it would be merged as they changed the focus of that project, and it's not active.

A is registered under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. If I create a new repository myself, (let's call this B), will I be allowed to do that?

If I am, will I only need to mention the name/link of the original repository and readme to fulfill the requirements of that license? I want my repository (B) to be open source. I'm wondering whether I also need written permission from the author, as well.

I've read Rules/Guidelines about forking a project vs. creating a new one, but I'm not sure if this is entirely similar. It didn't explicitly seem to be the same issue that I am facing.

  • Not really important for the answer, but you are forking in "git" meaning: so copying the entire history, or you are just forking the project copying the last version? – Giacomo Catenazzi Mar 5 '16 at 7:00
  • just copying the last version without history. – Raza Ahmed Mar 5 '16 at 19:39

If you "print, publish, perform, film, or record" someone else's work, you must comply with the terms of their license -- which includes any license they granted by accepting the github.com terms of service. No one knows for certain what the boundaries of those words are on the internet. Does pushing the fork button constitute a publication or a recording? Does it matter, given the github TOS? Does adding a commit (and thus making a derived work) result in a change in legal status?

In practical terms, copyright and licensing is all about economic considerations. Every day, thousands of people push the fork button on thousands of github repositories of uncertain licensing status. And nothing happens. Unless either the original author is somehow making money off the thing you are forking, or you are planning to make money off of your copy, the chances of any legal issue are very slim.

It's polite and prudent to comply with the terms of the license if there's a license. It's reasonable to ask the author to consider an additional or other license. But it's not worth worrying about too much unless there is money involved.

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  • True in general, but in this particular case the CC-BY license explicitly allows OP to do all this, and more. – vonbrand Mar 6 '16 at 19:37
  • thanks @bmargulies, I guess I got my answer. For me, it was not money, I was thinking either its "ethical" or not. I'll contact original author for permission although my work will also be open source under same license. – Raza Ahmed Mar 6 '16 at 19:37

The license you cite is open source, but not ideal for software. You are allowed by the license to distribute under the same terms. Read the license carefully, and ask here (or your very own lawyer) if some doubts remain.

Check the licenses recommended by the Open Source Initiative and/of the Free Software Foundation and see if one fits your idea better, and ask the upstream if they are prepared to change the license to the one you pick. Please pick one of the overwhelmingly popular licenses, MIT/BSD or GPL, or perhaps Apache. Selecting a minority license will just create an island that is of little use to everybody else (and forbids you to take useful code from others too).

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  • In short, can I use that code/repo under same license? I mean if I copy that code and commit again as a new repo under same license? – Raza Ahmed Mar 5 '16 at 19:41
  • @RazaAhmed, you are allowed to do so by the license. You should add yourself as a (partial) author, and do so with any other contributors (and ask any contributors to give their code under the same license). CC-BY gets to be a mess if there are more than, say, a dozen contributors. That is why I suggest asking for a license change, to one more suitable for software. – vonbrand Mar 6 '16 at 19:40

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