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I recently found a repository on GitHub that I found quite interesting. I wanted to modify and use it in my project; however, the code is unlicensed. I proceeded to email the owner of the repository about it asking whether or not it was okay for me to use the code, and he gave me his permission to do so. Here is the conversation:

My email:

Hi there! My name is Maraudery, I recently stumbled upon your repository, Sherlock, that happens to be implemented in Go. Recently I've been working on a program named GoSeek. It is an Open-Source Intelligence apparatus, basically an all-in-one OSINT tool/library. I noticed your repository isn't licensed so I thought I'd ask, how would you feel about me using the code, tweaking it a bit, and integrating it into GoSeek? Absolutely no pressure, I just thought I'd ask. If you are interested, check it out: https://github.com/maraudery/goseek and feel free to email me back. :)`

Their reply:

Hi Maraudery, You can change and use sherlock, feel free. Thanks for reaching 🤗

I just wanted to come here to make sure that I am not missing anything and I am able to proceed without suffering any consequences.Thank you for your time!

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  • In my view this question is not asking for specific legal advice. it is simply asking what the law permits or requires in a particular situation. It could be edited to make it more obviously hypothetical, but we have at least one moderator's word that such an edit is not required. See law.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1363/… Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 21:30

2 Answers 2

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By "unlicensed" you mean that it doesn't state a license for use (MIT, GPL, etc.)? Those licenses are just a codified bundle of terms of use that cover many many edge cases. You have in place a much simpler agreement that covers the primary situation: you using/modifying the code for your own use.

It's just like borrowing a car. You will ask a friend "hey, could I borrow your car for a bit?" "sure!". You know there's a possibility that you'll get in an accident or something weird will happen, but you think the chances of that are minimal and you would be able to work it out. If you ask a car rental company, they'll give you a full contract covering every situation that may happen. Similarly, a large company would be hesitant to borrow a car for corporate use without a legal framework surrounding it.

So you will likely be in the clear if you are just using it for a small project with minimal legal/financial implications. If you plan on turning your project into a multi-billion dollar empire, you should revisit your agreement.

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Their reply is a license that allows you to "change and use" their software. We may conclude from the tone of the reply message that the original author has no interest to sue you, and I'd say cannot sue you successfully if you use this software in your own software.

Distribution is different. I don't think the answer gives you a license to sell 10,000 copies of your software with this software included. So if that's what you plan, you should contact the author again in the future and ask him whether he's Ok with what you're planning.

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