There is one very cool app on GitHub, under the MIT license. However, for some reason, the author has not published the source code, only binaries.

Is it allowed under the MIT license to provide binaries only?

I ask it here because I'm going to ask the author to publish the code, but I don't want to look rude or pretentious.

Update: The app is based on .NET and at seems that reverse engineering of .NET apps is somewhat relatively easy. It is possible that author intentionally created some kind of challenge.

  • 4
    The author (really the owner of the relevant rights) can do as she pleases.
    – vonbrand
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 17:50
  • 4
    Be very careful of source-code repositories only containing binaries. Although it's uncommon—and I have bad luck in this regard—I've never seen legitimate software distributed like that. That is, it's always been malware or generally nefarious. As much as possible, I only run software that is from a trusted source or has accessible source-code and resulting binaries. Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 0:02
  • @NathanGoings Google released the Cardboard SDK under an OSS license, promised the source "soon," and never delivered. Last I checked, the decompiled source was available from several repos on Github. Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 17:25
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    @KevinKrumwiede, I would consider google a trustworthy source in that situation. I was unable to find the binary only repository though. Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 19:34

1 Answer 1


The MIT license doesn't require source code to be published. It only requires that the license notice is kept intact. MIT-licensed binaries without source code are rare – no source kinda defeats the purpose of open source – but it's also not the first time I've heard about this construction.

Even for licenses like the GPL that do require source code, it's useful to look at who is subject to this requirement: only recipients of the license and creators of derivative works, not the licensor who created the original software. Thus, even a GPL-licensed binary without normal source code could legally exist in rare cases.

While you do not have a right to receive the source code for the MIT-licensed binaries, you can still ask. Often, such weird licensing constructions are created by people who are new to the open source community, often also new to how version control works. Therefore: don't demand source code, but kindly ask whether they would be willing to publish it. If GitHub issues are deactivated, you can often extract an email from the Git commit history.

  • 2
    AFAIK, when distributing a binary made on GPL modified code, you don't have to provide the source code openly to the whole world. You only have to make it available to users of the binary. IIRC, you don't even have to provide it for free, but for a reasonable price (like, you can provide it on CD and charge for CD and shipment). This might have changed now, as with the development of the Internet, a reasonable price is close to 0. But you can still ask for a registration, for instance.
    – Jérôme
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 23:11
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    @Jérôme At the same time, you cannot prevent users of said binary from further distributing the binary or the source.
    – Bob
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 15:37
  • Yes. Absolutely.
    – Jérôme
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 18:27

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