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Open source code with absent author and no stated license - what would you do?

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HwAoRrDk:
I recently came across a piece of software published on GitHub that could prove very useful to me. There are a number of bugs I have discovered, and there are a few improvements I want to make. However, the situation that has cropped up is:


* The author seems to be absent or incommunicado. I have filed a few bug reports, and even a pull request with some fixes. But it has been a few weeks since, and no response to anything at all.
* The software is not branded with any kind of licensing information. Not in readme, source code, etc. I assume it is meant to be open source, as otherwise the author would not have published it on GitHub, right? And I do believe the author intentionally did so - i.e. not some private thing made public inadvertently - because the readme file is very much written in a way that is providing documentation and explanation for other people.
So what do I do? I'm hesitant to fix any more bugs or make any significant changes or improvements without knowing how it's licensed, but nor am I able to find out due to lack of response from the author.

What would you do?

SiliconWizard:
Isn't there any mention of a copyright of some kind in the source files? Is there even the author's name?

voltsandjolts:
For commercial use, definitely avoid.

HwAoRrDk:

--- Quote from: SiliconWizard on April 22, 2022, 05:08:03 pm ---Isn't there any mention of a copyright of some kind in the source files? Is there even the author's name?

--- End quote ---

Nope, nothing at all. No license blurb, no copyright notices, not even the author's name, anywhere, in any files. ??? Which is odd, because some of the author's other GitHub projects do include this stuff - for instance, one other is GPLv2 licensed.

The thought occurred that maybe the author didn't actually write it and has stolen it from somewhere else and stripped all attribution, but I'm 99% sure that's not the case. The code style definitely fits with the author's other published projects (and in fact even reuses some stuff).


--- Quote from: voltsandjolts on April 22, 2022, 05:29:42 pm ---For commercial use, definitely avoid.

--- End quote ---

I plan to only make personal use of it.


The lack of response from the author is actually kind of annoying now, because I found today a fairly egregious bug that is a show-stopper for my particular usage, which I've fixed, but can't send in another pull request until the author accepts my existing one.

SiliconWizard:
If the name of the author was in the source files, I would assume that copyright laws would apply by default.
Now if there is absolutely no mention of anything, I think you can safely assume it's in the public domain. But: the residual problem you get is that the source code might actually belong to someone else and might have been "stolen" with any mention of its origin removed by the "stealer". That happens. So even an absence of any mention is not proof it's in the public domain.

Now if it's strictly for personal use, frankly... do whatever you like. The question might be if you wanted to share it. But even so, the worst that could happen is that the author might politely ask you to stop sharing it. So yeah, for commercial use, I wouldn't do this, but for personal use, don't even fret about it.

As a side note to authors: beware of sharing any project with no mention of copyright or license of any kind. I don't know the minute details of the EULA for github, but I'm afraid that if you do this, the project might de facto belong to github (so, Microsoft.) Something to check for sure.

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