If I want to license my software under the term of Unlicense, I'm supposed to include its text in a file and place the file in the repository alongside my project. When I distribute the project, I'm therefore also distributing the text of the license.

I'm not the author of the text, what gives me the right to distribute it?

  • 1
    A note about the Unlicense itself: You are of course free to use it, however, there might be better licenses. In particular, the Unlicense seems amateurish and U.S.-centric (as a German, I don't think I would be able to use it). Please consider whether CC0 would be a better choice for a public-domain dedication.
    – amon
    May 13, 2018 at 20:11
  • @amon, sure, I'm just evaluating. So, how's the CC0 text licensed?
    – avakar
    May 14, 2018 at 6:39
  • The CC0 another Creative Commons are not recommended for software. Use the 0BSD license which is well known approved by Google and and doesn't have any problems. Apr 28, 2023 at 11:17

1 Answer 1


The footer of the Unlicense web page indicates that the entire page (including the text of the license) is licensed under CC0 Public Domain Dedication.

However, if it weren't licensed that way, the legal principle of estoppel in general prevents someone from punishing you for performing an action that they permitted you to do. The Unlicense web site says:

To opt out of the copyright industry's game altogether and set your code free, put your next software project into the public domain using the following (un)licensing statement:

They have explicitly permitted and instructed you to include the Unlicense licensing statement in your project. If the author of the text of the Unlicense later sued you for violating their copyright after you included the text in your project per their own instructions, their suit would not succeed (even absent CC0 permissions) because you are acting within parameters that the author has explicitly permitted.

If you relied on estoppel (instead of CC0), other actions beyond distribution, such as modifying the text, might not be allowed, since the website doesn't appear to contain any permissions for preparing derivatives of the Unlicense. (However, considering the author's attitudes about copyright in general, I would be personally shocked if they tried to sue you for that.)

  • Goodness, can't they just say CC0 instead of "no rights reserved"? :) Thanks, I didn't notice the link in the footer.
    – avakar
    May 13, 2018 at 18:44

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