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This question already has an answer here:

There is a project that has not been updated for 3 years, there is no license file there. How can I copy and develop it independently, making my own changes?

What is better, to make a fork or create a new repository with the original repository code for further rework?

I found some similar questions here, but there were other conditions. In the repository I need, there is no license or contributing file. Also I'm not sure that the author of the original repository will update it.

marked as duplicate by curiousdannii, Mureinik, Bart van Ingen Schenau, ArtOfCode Jan 22 '18 at 23:59

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • Your update introduces a different question, for which you should create a separate question post. I rolled back your edit (you can still see the content in the revision history: opensource.stackexchange.com/posts/6454/revisions). – unor Jan 21 '18 at 22:06
  • unor's answer shows that there might be Github specificities (surprisingly), so it is not really a duplicate I would say. – Nicolas Raoul Jan 22 '18 at 4:48
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For a public GitHub project without license:

  1. You are allowed to fork the project on GitHub.¹

  2. You are not allowed to copy the project’s content into a new GitHub project, nor to any other place.

  3. You are not allowed to edit the content in your fork.


¹ Copyright doesn’t even allow forking the project, but GitHub’s Terms of Service allow this (see How does GitHub's “forking right” cope with an “All rights reserved” project?).

  • for the sake of interest, what then can I do with the fork without a license? only use? And as I asked above: if the author adds a license, I can make a fork and develop it separately, right? Also I can copy the repository into a new project and develop it, right? which option is the most suitable? – Daniel Jan 20 '18 at 19:58
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    @Daniel: Yes, using it (without distributing it in some other way). You could of course edit the code etc. as long as you don’t publish/distribute the changes, so just for yourself. -- I guess the only reason for forking an inactive project without license is to keep a copy of the project available in case the original author decides to delete it. – unor Jan 20 '18 at 22:06
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If you haven't received a license, you do not have the rights to publish your own versions. Therefore, you CANNOT continue this project.

Instead, contact the author and ask them to give you a license (e.g. suggest the short and permissive MIT license).

If they haven't published contact information (email addresses, Twitter handles, …), note that each commit also contains an email address of the comitter. Once you've cloned a repository, you can get a list with this command:

git shortlog --summary --email
  • if the author adds a license, I can make a fork and develop it separately, right? Also I can copy the repository into a new project and develop it, right? which option is the most suitable? – Daniel Jan 20 '18 at 19:57
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    @Daniel Once the author adds a license, you may exercise your rights under the license. For example, the license may allow you to publish your modifications under the same license. Without a license, you are not allowed to do that: you can only look at it and run it yourself. So to continue development, you first need to get a license. – amon Jan 20 '18 at 20:10

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