I received a library to use in a school project, which is closed source.

However, the project itself was programmed in a different language, so I had to translate the original library. Now I want to open source the project. Can I do so without consent from the creator of the original library?

Something to note is that the library in question is trivial in its nature: the given library is just another interface, consisting of one simple class, for a graphical library (Java Swing in this case).

This question is related to Is it legal to rewrite a Java (OpenJDK) library into another programming language under GPL? but I feel that that answer is inapplicable in this case.

  • What license was provided to you when you received the API? I'm almost sure that the answer to this question is "no, it is not OK", but knowing the license you got and if any NDA's, etc were signed by your school in obtaining the library were in force.
    – Ron Beyer
    Oct 14, 2018 at 15:33
  • 4
  • @RonBeyer I should explain more clearly: the library we recieved was written by our professor/teaching assistants specifically for this project. It also did not come with a license or an NDA. I have also asked if there are NDA's I signed when enrolling in this class, but as it's sunday it will probably take a while before I recieve an answer.
    – Pelican
    Oct 14, 2018 at 16:00
  • 1
    Then I would address this question directly to them, just because something doesn't come with an explicit license doesn't mean it is free to do whatever with. Typically code written for a university (by its staff and even students) is the property of the university, and the professors/TA's may have contracts that define ownership of intellectual property.
    – Ron Beyer
    Oct 14, 2018 at 16:03
  • If it is closed source, how did you "Translate" it into another programming language?
    – Brandin
    Oct 14, 2018 at 20:34

1 Answer 1


You are creating a derivative work. You are only allowed to do this if the library comes with a license that allows this.

If you want to give your derivative work to anyone else, copying it is copyright infringement unless the license allows it.

Copying the derivative work and attaching a different license is most likely to be copyright infringement. And if people receive a copy with an open source license that is not justified and rely on it, that’s creating one unholy legal mess for everyone involved and can be massively more expensive than plain copyright infringement.

No license means you don’t have permission to do anything with it, not creating derivative work, not distributing it, and certainly not publish it with an open source license.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .