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I'm currently using an open source project called CodeFirstMembership for one of my projects. There's a critical issue that I need to get past, and the more I use it, the more I find things I need to modify. It's extremely useful, except it doesn't look like the developer has much time to update it (totally cool, we've all been there). I'm wondering about the etiquette and legality and general "hey, you stole my code you jerk" responses I'd get if I copied the source, moved it to github and made my own fork.

On Github, we do this all the time, forking projects, but it FEELs less jerk-ish because there's a connection to the original. Is there anything wrong with me doing this, whether legal or otherwise since there's no copyright notice or license associated with this library?

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As far as I can tell it seems to be allowed by the license (Microsoft Public License), but why don't you email the author? –  Andres F. Jan 31 '13 at 2:18
    
I think I may do that. I just now found a way to upload a patch, so I think that's what I'll do. Thanks! –  Ryan Hayes Jan 31 '13 at 2:28
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You may be interested in reading ESR's Homesteading the Noosphere, which, in part, addresses the ethics of forking. –  apsillers Jan 31 '13 at 3:58
    
@aspillers Thanks! –  Ryan Hayes Jan 31 '13 at 15:12
    
opensource.org/faq may help you –  Md. Mahbubur R. Aaman Feb 12 '13 at 9:13

2 Answers 2

You can just fork it, send an email letting the original author know as a kindness. But you have to remember that the author has already told you you can copy it and modify it. No developer truly wants his code to bitrot. If you're lucky your modifications will be pulled back in.

"Grant of Rights

(A) Copyright Grant- Subject to the terms of this license, including the license conditions and limitations in section 3, each contributor grants you a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free copyright license to reproduce its contribution, prepare derivative works of its contribution, and distribute its contribution or any derivative works that you create."

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From http://codefirstmembership.codeplex.com/license

Conditions and Limitations

(A) No Trademark License- This license does not grant you rights to use any contributors' name, logo, or trademarks.

(B) If you bring a patent claim against any contributor over patents that you claim are infringed by the software, your patent license from such contributor to the software ends automatically.

(C) If you distribute any portion of the software, you must retain all copyright, patent, trademark, and attribution notices that are present in the software.

(D) If you distribute any portion of the software in source code form, you may do so only under this license by including a complete copy of this license with your distribution. If you distribute any portion of the software in compiled or object code form, you may only do so under a license that complies with this license.

(E) The software is licensed "as-is." You bear the risk of using it. The contributors give no express warranties, guarantees or conditions. You may have additional consumer rights under your local laws which this license cannot change. To the extent permitted under your local laws, the contributors exclude the implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose and non-infringement.

For other open source projects, have a look at the following resources

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