Let's say I have an app stored as a closed source code (e.g on github) for which I have a software license in place (Apache 2.0), is this enough to prevent/prosecute an employee or just a random outsider who somehow managed to get the code, copy it and thereby "proclaiming" it as his own, and in what specific circumstances is it possible (him publishing the app, giving it to a third party etc.)?

  • I'm confused. You're saying your code is closed source, but you also say it is licensed under Apache 2.0, which is not only an open source license, but in fact one of the more permissive ones. So, which is it? Is your code closed source (in which case it cannot be licensed under Apache 2.0) or is it licensed under Apache 2.0 (in which case it is open source)? It can't be both. Jun 29, 2023 at 1:50
  • Yes sorry I didn't notice, there is no license Jun 29, 2023 at 20:43
  • Please edit that information into the question, as comments are ephemeral and may be deleted.
    – CGCampbell
    Jul 28, 2023 at 14:35

1 Answer 1


You can’t prevent “theft” of your source code, but you can ensure that you can sue the “thief” for copyright infringement and receive damages, or force them to delete all copies of your source code.

Now a license doesn’t do what you seem to think it does. Copyright law, without any license, allows people to do very little: It allows them to have and use one copy of the code that you gave them and nothing else. A license allows people to do things that would be illegal without the license. So you need to check the apache license to see what exactly it allows others to do. For example, the GPL license allows people who received the software legally from you with the license to give it to others under some conditions.

But I don’t think there is any license that allows people to just take your copy from you.

If you think someone took your software without your permission, you can ask a lawyer for help. You can as a first step send them a letter that you believe they have your software without permission, ask them to destroy all copies, and notify you that they have done this.

Penalty for copying your software in the USA is either between 30,000 and 150,000 if you can’t proof the amount of damages, or the amount of damages you can prove. Of course this requires that you win a lawsuit which isn’t cheap, and that they have money to pay you.

  • Thanks, is there some requirement or signature required for my app to sign it as is, as my own? Is it just enough for me to be the first one with my exact app and code and thereby prohibiting anyone copying it and claiming as their own? Does a simple source code repository with time stamps proves me being the first creator of said app? Jun 27, 2023 at 20:21
  • @JanSafronov suppose someone starts selling a closed-source app that does the same thing as your app. How do you know they copied your source code? Maybe they just reverse engineered it.
    – phoog
    Jun 27, 2023 at 20:34
  • You would need some evidence that you created the work. For example, three year old backup copies of early versions. A signature wouldn’t help, since a thief could easily add his own signature. For statutory damages, you may need a copyright registration.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 28, 2023 at 9:14

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