I was told that it might be useful to publish something on Github to get a job. I was wondering if there are any copyright issues here:

Suppose I got an idea of a small program. I do it mostly by my own but I found some good functions from Github or some discussion forum. Author of those functions have not said anything about the lisences of the code. Is it legal to publish the program I made in Github if there are any code that is available from the Internet but author has not said anything about its lisence or copyrights?

Do the lawyers judge that of course I am guilty as there is code someone other wrote, they have copyright to it, and there is no permission to use it, or do they think that it would be weird to bully people by posting code to the Internet that nobody can use?

I'm from Finland.

1 Answer 1



That is very simple - copyright is an exclusive right that starts automatically with the creation of a copyrightable work.

The default situation is that the author has an exclusive rights to make copies of the work and derivative works.

If the code is published somewhere by the author but the author has not said anything about its licence or copyrights, then the default situation applies - you need permission and you don't have it, so it's not legal for you to distribute their copyrighted works. They have the right to just publish it somewhere, others don't.

If you try to contact the author and they don't say anything and ignore you, then the default situation applies - you need permission and you don't have it, so it's not legal for you to distribute their copyrighted works.

If it's impossible to find the author (e.g. I have certain cases with literary works where it's not clear who inherited the rights after the author died), then the default situation applies - you need permission and you don't have it, so it's not legal for you to distribute their copyrighted works.

That being said, certain forms of reuse (recreating ideas, learning from them, etc) would not be a copyright violation. But in general the situation with the author not saying anything is almost the same as the author explicitly stating "all rights reserved, you're not allowed to do anything, violators will be shot" - some specific uses are allowed even against author's wishes (e.g. 'fair use' clauses) but everything that needs their permission really does need their explicit permission.

  • So if I visit the site where code is, the code will be copied to my computer's browser cache and it is illegal copy? And it is legal to write the code such that during compile time the code will be copied to the source code of mine, compiled to executable code and the source will be deleted?
    – guest
    Feb 20, 2019 at 20:54
  • @guest that's a separate question, and if interested, you should submit it as a new question. Those aspects are generally handled by country-specific parts of copyright law - i.e. there usually are some specific rules that affect your concerns, but those (unlike the general principles relevant for the original question described above) aren't universal and internationally harmonized by Berne convention and other treaties, so for your question details will depend on the jurisdiction, and I'm not certain about Finland.
    – Peteris
    Feb 20, 2019 at 22:32
  • @guest But in general, the "unavoidable technical copies" such as your cache example (or the more common example of executable being copied from disk to memory) are treated in one of two aspects - either the local law makes an exception allowing that; or it does not make such an exception, and expects the licence that you have (possibly implied licence in case of webpages) to grant you that permission; in which case a violation of licence T&C makes that the cache copy is also a copyright violation in that jurisdiction.
    – Peteris
    Feb 20, 2019 at 22:36
  • @guest and in your example with the tricky copying, the resulting executable would generally be treated as a derivative work of "their" source code, and you're generally not allowed to create it or distribute it without the author's permission (again, there may be country-specific exceptions in your local law - e.g. interoperability is sometimes a reason for exceptions) . It might be legal to write that code (or maybe not, some countries have interesting laws regarding copyright circumvention mechanisms) but it most likely wouldn't be technically legal to run it.
    – Peteris
    Feb 20, 2019 at 22:40

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