I don't know if I'm over-reacting but a while ago, I'm using a library https://github.com/sudeepag/SAConfettiView and I saw an open ticket https://github.com/sudeepag/SAConfettiView/issues/57 and it says someone ripped off the said library that is https://github.com/ugurethemaydin/SwiftConfettiView

  1. No credits given to the original author or project.
  2. The guy just renamed the project and literally took ownership of it, and just updated some little codes.
  3. Didn't bother to just fork the original project.

Question is, how is this okay? I don't know anything about licenses, but if I use a library and I have to edit some functions, what I do is either fork the original library or edit it in my local project and avoid deleting author's name.

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    Nature of Free software - as long as he is complying with whatever terms of the license he obtained the code under.
    – ivanivan
    Apr 20, 2019 at 18:41
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    "Didn't bother to just fork the original project" -- If it is derived from the original project, it is a fork, whether the person used the GitHub "fork" button or not. Open source licenses generally make no requirement about how you fork a project, as long as you follow all the requirements (e.g. retaining required notices).
    – Brandin
    Apr 21, 2019 at 15:21

2 Answers 2


Generally, a fork done without consultation of the original project (and without the intent to merge change back upstream eventually) is called a "hostile fork". Performing a hostile fork is -- as its name suggests -- a socially aggressive move. So long as people have disagreements about the management of open source projects, we will continue to have hostile forks. They may sometimes cause hurt feelings, as any disagreement may.

Legally, a hostile fork (like any fork, social concerns aside) still must abide by the original project's license terms. In this case, the downstream author removed the original author's copyright notice and appears to be in violation of the license grant that allows them to distribute modified version of the upstream work. While the downstream author is not required to prominently mention the upstream author (though that might be polite, depending on the substantially of their included work), they are legally required to preserve copyright notices.

It is also worth noting that if the fork is licensed under the same terms as the original project, then the original project may legally pull the fork's changes back upstream.

  • 1
    Very good answer. I would add also that sometimes the copyright holder says something like "Do what ever you want with it" or something similar and it is recorded in audio or video (on YouTube for example). In such case even the oral license is as valid as the one at the repository. Not to mention things written on Facebook or Twitter. So people should be really careful what they say or write on social media.
    – Smart455
    Apr 21, 2019 at 15:59
  • I wonder what makes you think that such vague oral permission would have the same legal standing as a license. I would think that if such case were taken to court, the ruling would strongly depend on the exact circumstances, and probably even the court location.
    – Zimm i48
    Sep 3, 2019 at 12:29
  • On what basis is this a 'hostile' fork? If you could add a reference to this terminology. For example, if a project is not updated for a year or more, and later someone forks it without consulting the original author, is that considered a 'hostile' fork? I somehow doubt it. It seems like whoever thought of the phrase 'hostile fork' is somehow seriously misunderstanding open source.
    – Brandin
    Apr 25, 2020 at 10:04
  • @Brandin I agree that the English word "hostile" is pretty strong in the case that the old project maintainers don't care or are absent. (Perhaps, to borrow mathematical terminology, we might call it "trivially hostile"?) ESR's "Homesteading the Noosphere" doesn't use the word "hostile" but details the customs of adopting an abandoned work politely. Re: "whoever coined the term misunderstood open source," the premise of Noospehe is that the stated ethos of open source differs significantly from its practical customs
    – apsillers
    May 17, 2020 at 15:53

Is ripping off an open source library okay?

Yes, absolutely. Copying an open source library, even if you make no changes, or only make trivial changes, is completely OK as long you follow the requirements of that library's license.

In the example you have highlighted (SAConfettiView vs. SwiftConfettiView), the author of the fork (SwiftConfettiView) has apparently not followed the license requirements of the original (SAConfettiView), because he has not retained the copyright notices as required by the MIT license. See @apsillers answer for further details about this.

However, in general, copying a library, even if you copy it verbatim or make only trivial changes, is generally allowed by open source licenses, including the MIT license. In general, none of the things you complained about is actually a problem. Let's look at each of your complaints:

No credits given to the original author or project.

Open source licenses, and the MIT license in particular, do not specifically require "credits" to be given to the original project. For example, if your app features a "credits" screen of some sort, the MIT license does not require you to place any particular notice there. If your app does not feature a "credits" screen, the MIT license does not require that you add such a screen. The MIT license only requires that you retain the required copyright notice(s).

The guy just renamed the project and literally took ownership of it, and just updated some little codes.

You are not required to change a certain amount of an open source project in order to distribute your version. If you want to copy a project verbatim, that is allowed. If you want to copy a project and make trivial, meaningless changes to the source code, that is allowed. If you want to copy a project and introduce subtle bugs here and there, that is also allowed.

If you think about it for a moment, there is really no need to make any requirements on what changes you make to an open source project. If the new version actually is better than the original, then people will eventually use the new version in favour of the old. On the other hand, if the new version is simply a copy/paste of the original, or if it introduces bugs or is generally worse than the original, there will be no reason for people to use the new version, so they will just continue to use the old version anyway, and the new version (the "rip off") will eventually be forgotten. In any case, the original author is always allowed to incorporate positive changes back into his version, at his discretion.

Didn't bother to just fork the original project.

In general a "fork" just means it is a copy of the original, with or without changes. In GitHub, there is also a "fork" button that you can use on a GitHub-hosted project which copies that project and links it back to the original, but if the project is released under an open source license, there is never a requirement that you use that particular button in order to release your own version of a project.

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    You are absolutely wrong. What that guy did is a copyright infringement and in many jurisdictions is viewed like ripping DVD's in a cellar. You might think that since it has the same license - no harm done, but people have been killed for lesser insults. But in most cases it's your cyber security they come after. If you're lucky, that is.
    – Smart455
    Apr 21, 2019 at 16:55
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    I included "the author of the fork (SwiftConfettiView) has apparently not followed the license requirements of the original." My point with the answer is that you are generally free to copy an open source project as you wish (even with trivial, unimportant, or no changes), but you still must follow the license terms to do this.
    – Brandin
    Apr 21, 2019 at 17:02
  • 1
    "Is ripping off an open source library okay?" - "Yes, absolutely." - That's your main point. The question wasn't whether you can copy it or not.
    – Smart455
    Apr 21, 2019 at 17:56
  • 1
    "Ripping off" is just another way of saying "copying without making significant changes." It might also imply failure to give due credit, but as I pointed out, whether you give credit or make significant changes are not really important. It only matters whether you followed the license terms.
    – Brandin
    May 2, 2019 at 11:44
  • Removing the license is a violation of the license May 3, 2023 at 9:43

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