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Quite an odd thing has happened. A software author as released a repo under GPL 3.0 license

But inside that repo is code that the author doesn't own in any way and has no license. Now when people fork this repo their project will be under GPL 3.0 and using the code they do not know is stolen.

I'm wondering whos responsible for this code if people start using it? Can the people using it that think its under GPL in any way get in trouble for it or be made to remove it from their projects?

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  • Where is this repo available? GitHub? Jul 21 '20 at 20:57
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I'm wondering whos responsible for this code if people start using it?

The user.

Can the people using it that think its under GPL in any way get in trouble for it or be made to remove it from their projects?

Yes, they can be sued (successfully) for copyright violation.

It’s not enough that you think you have permission from the copyright holder - you actually have to have permission. The law places the onus on the copier to seek out and get permission from the copyright holder.

In theory, someone deceived in this way could sue the repo poster(s) for misrepresentation, however, there are practical issues about finding them, having them in an accessible jurisdiction and if they are judgement proof.

Copyright law was created to protect physical books and paintings - it doesn’t really fit with digital methods of reproduction but it is the law. It doesn’t matter that complying with it can be hard bordering on impossible - comply with it you must.

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  • Though the repo user could also be found to have done his due diligence and only need to pay a less than minimum fine - if he did his homework and tried to identify an author but couldn't. Ref: youtu.be/KSs5bQGxpas
    – Trish
    Jul 22 '20 at 11:16
  • I mean the 17USC 504(c)(2) innocent infingement exception
    – Trish
    Jul 22 '20 at 11:27

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