If an app doesn't come with a license, and the code has not been obfuscated, does that mean that the app code and resources are free and open source?


All app code and resources are copyrighted. Without some sort of license, nobody else can legally copy any part of it. The lack of an EULA or license means that copyright law governs what you can do with it. The default is hence closed source.

  • But then why does many apps have EULA or other prohibiting text if what you say that copyright law take care of protection. Oct 1 '18 at 20:02
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    @ErikHellberg An excellent question, which I don't have an answer for. It may be to emphasize or extend on the copyright restrictions. It may be that everybody else does it. Oct 1 '18 at 21:51
  • It is generally safer for an author and easier for a user if the author explicitly says what rights, if any, are being granted and what rights retained. Otherwise a court might hold that the act of posting granted some implied license. Or people might ignorantly use the code thinking that it is permitted, and it would be far to costly to sue each one. Oct 5 '18 at 17:37

Without a license, you cannot even legally download use a program, much less modify or re-distribute it. Occasionally authors fail to include a license, technically putting users at risk. More often, authors will include a license, and then the conditions grow (can you use it for commercial purposes; can you modify it; can you sell it, or any derivative work). If a person puts software out there "for the taking", e.g. providing a download button, but does not say what license is granted, the courts will probably find that there is an implied license. But that license might be revocable, depending on whether the author received any consideration. The courts would look at "the surrounding circumstances" to determine whether it is reasonable to assume that the author intended to grant permission to e.g. modify (probably, if the source code is attached).


In the United States, all copyrightable works made since 1988, the year of the US accession to the Berne Convention, have been immediately copyrighted upon creation without the need for registration or notice. As an author, there are still many benefits to registration, but works are still fully protected by law without it; the differences mostly relate to damages in infringement suits.

Accordingly, absent a written or implied license you have no rights to use a copyrighted work. If you legitimately obtained it from the author, it likely has an implied right of use, but not of modification and distribution.

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    Under US copyright law, you have the right to run legally acquired software, making all copies necessary in the course of operation (such as copying from a DVD-ROM to main memory). You'd have no right to modify or copy. Oct 1 '18 at 21:53

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