I am looking at working on improving an app that has not been updated for several months, add some features etc. In the description of the app on google play it says that the app is open source and links the github, and in another forum it says the same thing (with no proof on the forum that they are the creator).

However, on github there is no license and it does not say it is open source. It does have a link on the github readme to the google play page where it says that the app is open source but it doesn't say on github page that it is open source.

So my question is, can I fork the app? I am not aware of the legal rules, can I use it on my phone and give it to a few friends? Can I share it larger than that or could I even put it on google play? I have tried contacting the creator of the app in multiple places with no response.


1 Answer 1


Per the GitHub Terms of Service, yes, you can fork the project on GitHub using GitHub's fork functionality. Specifically, section D5 of the GitHub Terms of Service state:

Any Content you post publicly, including issues, comments, and contributions to other Users' repositories, may be viewed by others. 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 your Content in repositories they control).

If you set your pages and repositories to be viewed publicly, you grant each User of GitHub a nonexclusive, worldwide license to access your Content through the GitHub Service, and to use, display and perform your Content, and to reproduce your Content solely on GitHub as permitted through GitHub's functionality. You may grant further rights if you adopt a license.

Your rights are limited to the keeping the product on GitHub. Without a license grant, you can't use, modify, distribute, or any of the other good things that you can do with the software.

So, although you can make a copy of it on GitHub, you can't do much with that copy. You can't compile it and submit it to Google Play, you can't compile it and load it onto your phone (or your friends' phones), and you can't make modifications or derivative works of the original work.

Because there's no explicit license grant, the work is considered "all rights reserved", except for the few rights that were required to be granted in order to use the GitHub service.

  • Thanks! So this means I can fork it but basically can't touch it? And I don't want to break the law, but is there realistically any way to know that I have it on my phone?
    – SolidEnvy
    Jun 2, 2017 at 17:52
  • 1
    @SolidEnvy That's right - you can fork it, but you can't touch it. As far as knowing, can you live with yourself for not only violating IP law, but also behaving unethically? Just because you can do something and maybe get away with it doesn't mean that you should. Jun 2, 2017 at 17:56
  • Good point there, thanks for answering my questions.
    – SolidEnvy
    Jun 2, 2017 at 17:58

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