Earlier today I was installing a small free program hosted on GitHub. The End-User License Agreement shown when installing had a few things, but what stood out was:

[...] is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Summary and full text of license and is avaliable here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

By using [...] Web Services you confirm that you are agree with respective terms and conditions listed here: [...] as well as Privacy Policy: [...]

The main use for GibHub is as issue tracker. The source GitHub repository only contains a README.md file and zip file containing the .msi installation file. There's even a few forks from new accounts, but they can't do much.

My main question is, what legal purpose does licensing a program with permissive licence have when the source code is not available? Are there likely to be any unintended consequences by licensing binaries under a permissive license?

1 Answer 1


CC BY-NC is not a permissive license. Neither the FSF nor the OSI approved it, so it’s not a free software license nor an open source license. The reason is the "NC" part: the licensed work may not be used for commercial purposes.

CC BY-NC and the other CC licenses aren’t intended for code, so they don’t clarify code-related aspects. This means there is no requirement to license/distribute the source code when licensing/distributing the binary.

A binary licensed under CC BY-NC is essentially proprietary freeware which anyone may share in a non-commercial way, and use for non-commercial purposes. But if the source code can be extracted from the binary, it should fall under the same license, too.

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    Freeware that can be freely shared with others (a step up from freeware that can only legally be downloaded from the source.) Nov 17, 2018 at 15:02

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