Please License Your Code

Dear Lupo:

I ran across your public repository of Arduino code on Github today. It’s nicely written and does almost exactly what I need. I would like to have used it in a project. I would have forked it, added a little functionality and contributed that back in case you’d like to integrate the changes. I might also have called it “George”. This would have saved me some time and let me add a bit of functionality to it that others might find useful.

Unfortunately it had no license – none at all. And you don’t have any links to social media or list any contact info in your profile so I can’t easily reach you to ask about it.

No license is equivalent to “All Rights Reserved”. It turns out that about half of public repositories on Github have no license.

Without a license I don’t know if it’s okay for me to use the library in my open (or closed) source project. I don’t know if it’s okay for me to modify it and distribute my modifications. Without a license I have to assume that you intended that no one else use it for anything, despite the fact that you left it out in the open for everyone to see.

I totally get it if you’d rather that I didn’t try to contribute changes. I write a lot of code which I just want to use for a while and not be responsible for forever. If your code had a license permitting me to do so, I’d be happy to evolve it and share my changes with other people myself. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a license at all.

I like the MIT license, and I publish almost all of my code under it. It’s short and sweet:

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED “AS IS”, WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE SOFTWARE.

This license says:

  1. You can do what you want with the code except remove the copyright notice
  2. I’m not liable for anything related to this code

And that’s about it.

If that doesn’t suit you, there are many other licenses to choose from. Choose A License can help you find the license that works best for you.

And if you don’t want to license your code – or just choose a license – that’s certainly your right. It’s your code, your say. But if you’re thinking that just popping it up on Github without a license makes it open source and usable but the rest of the world, sadly, the defaults don’t work that way.

So please – choose a license – even if it’s “All Rights Reserved” – so that we can know whether it’s okay for us to use or improve your code.

Thanks Lupo!