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Someone wrote a .NET library to use the Google Maps API (link to the project). I downloaded the entire repository and there are only source files, no LICENSE.txt, readme, etc. However, I guess Google makes you pick a license when creating a new project so the author specified "New BSD License".

What I would like to do is download the source and rework it (maybe include, add features, etc) and keep it in my github account.

So I have a few questions related to this:

  • Is the license valid even though the author doesn't have an explicit file with his name, copyright, etc?
  • If the license is valid, then do I just put his name and year into that BSD License Template?
  • In general, if there is a license included with a project, how do I make sure I am doing right by the author? Would I just leave their license information in tact and then add my own on top of it?
  • Am I over thinking this and some of these licenses just amount to a "do whatever you want just don't sue me" (kind of my feelings, since I would be delighted if anyone wanted to use my code for anything at all)?
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How about asking the original author of the code if it's OK with him/her if you use the code in the way you intend to? – Jesper May 3 '12 at 14:22
@Jesper Sure, I thought of that. But I would still like to know how to handle licensing in general. Who better to ask than other programmers? – Pete May 3 '12 at 14:25
@Pete Licensing is legal advice! – martiert May 4 '12 at 6:21
I'll never understand why people always want to be outrageous and throw out the old "go consult a lawyer" nonsense. If that were truly the case, we would never be able to fork anything from anywhere since there's usually a license involved and after all, if a license is involved, then we must consult a lawyer... I don't feel any of my questions need the involvement of a lawyer. – Pete May 4 '12 at 6:41
I agree that you don't need to consult a lawyer on this issue, as BSD licenses are also quite friendly. Thing is, to be 100% sure when in doubt about licensing issues, consult a lawyer. Programmers in general have little knowledge about legal implications of licenses, and frankly I do not really care about the licenses, I'm a programmer. My comment to you was that you would ask a lawyer if you need legal advice, and strictly speaking licensing issues are legal advice. – martiert May 4 '12 at 6:45
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Without an explicit license file in the source code repository you are on difficult ground.

Without looking at the google code page, which isn't part of the project itself, just one repository for that code, there is no indication in the source code that any rights have been assigned to any third party. It may not have copyright notices, but that doesn't mean it isn't copyrighted.

As it is, all it takes is for the project to be removed from google code and you would have no way of demonstrating that you had any rights to use the code. So, in it's current state the project is an interesting curio, but with no legal reuse value to anyone else.

The best solution to this is to contact the author and ask him/her to add an explicit license to the code repository. You could even send a patch, with an explanation of why not adding a license file could result in people avoiding their project.

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If it is marked BSD, then why not believe it. BSD is a very friendly license that does not restrict your use of the software. You are supposed to provide attribution (as you noted), though the original author is under no such obligation; create the license info per your second bullet, and perhaps also offer the license-explicit code it back as a github pull request.

You are doing right by the author if you honor the license. Pour your code in on top and have fun.

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