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No, you don't have to own a Max license in order to open and use Max patchers, Projects, or Max for Live devices. For example, while browsing our forums, tutorials, or Projects, you'll often find patchers that sound exciting or solves a problem you've been facing. These are all able to be opened and used in Max regardless of whether you have a fully licensed, demo authorized, or unauthorized (runtime) copy of Max.
With Max7 and up, you can run, edit and save Max patches for the first 30 days. After 30 days, you can still run and edit Max patches, but you cannot save your changes without a purchased authorization.