GitHub's free repositories are for open source software.

Is there a canonical way in GitHub user interface to identify what OSS license a project is under?

2 Answers 2


Since September 2016, GitHub displays the license, if recognized, at the top of the repository, next to the number of contributors:

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How are licenses recognized?

It's quite common for repositories to have an unrecognized license. There may be several reasons for that.

GitHub uses the open source project Licensee to detect licenses. Common reasons for unrecognized licenses include:

  • Licensee can only recognize licenses from choosealicense.com with slight differences.
  • The license needs to be in its own file, ideally LICENSE or LICENSE.md. Mentioning or writing the full license in the README is insufficient.
  • Titles and addendums (in addition to any already in the original license) often prevent Licensee from recognizing the license.

There's actually no way to visually identify the license in one single eyeshot. By the way, most of repo ( I mean nearly all of them ) have a README.md file with in most case some words about licensing.

  • This was changed in 2016 thanks to the open source project Licensee.
    – pchaigno
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 13:14

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