[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: question : authors names in code


On Wed, Jan 16, 2008 at 12:08:26PM +0100, Miriam Ruiz wrote:
> 2008/1/16, Vincent Fourmond <fourmond@debian.org>:
> > On Jan 16, 2008 8:18 AM, Jens Seidel <jensseidel@users.sf.net> wrote:
> > > Please read more carefully. I wrote that you cannot change the copyright
> > > but are free to change the copyright notice. The first is law stuff the
> > > second only a piece of text.
> >
> >   Yes, but it so happens that the piece of text is the only way to
> > assess the copyright of one file. So changing it means you're
> > effectively changing the copyright of the file. This is a no-go. Be
> > sure that no code modified this way will be uploaded by me.
> In my opinion, the proper way to do the change is to keep the original
> header in the code, and add a newer header with whatever you want to
> say before it, like is described here:
> http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2008/01/msg00027.html

This is a good example of changing a license in a way that is allowed
(turning a BSD license into GPL in this case).  There is another
possibility, which is choosing one license of several.  Some code is
licensed under several licenses.  In that case, if one is chosen and the
other isn't (for example because you want to modify the file, but don't
want to release your modifications under that license), then it is good
to simply remove the headers about that license.  This is usually also
indicated in the text ("if you choose to distribute under only one of
these licenses, please remove the paragraph about the other license" or

Note that this is about license statements.  This is not true for
copyright statement (notices about who owns the copyright).  These
should never be removed.  Jens is correct that it is legally possible to
move them elsewhere, but in practice it is IMO much better to leave them
in the file.  The reason, as noted by others, is that it is harder to
"lose" the information when forking the project, or copying files from

Personally, I have once removed a whole series of copyright statements,
but that was because they were incorrect (which I first checked, of

> In any case, I don't think changing that text would be illegal, as
> long as it is clearly stated somewhere the copyright of each part of
> the code, but I consider it bad taste to remove it from the headers
> without asking about it to the original authors first.

Also, in case of GPL'd code, clause 2a (GPL-2) says that if you modify
	You must cause the modified files to carry prominent notices
	stating that you changed the files and the date of any change.

And in clause 5a (GPL-3):
	The work must carry prominent notices stating that you modified
	it, and giving a relevant date.

This means that for GPL-2, you need to add your own name to the file
itself.  GPL-3 allows the "CREDITS" version because it only specifies
that it must be somewhere in the work.  However, IMO in the file itself
is still the best option.

AFAIK only a year is considered a date, so putting
	Copyright 2008 Bas Wijnen <wijnen@debian.org>
at the top of the file is enough to fulfill the requirement, assuming
I'm the one changing it and I'm doing it this year. ;-)


I encourage people to send encrypted e-mail (see http://www.gnupg.org).
If you have problems reading my e-mail, use a better reader.
Please send the central message of e-mails as plain text
   in the message body, not as HTML and definitely not as MS Word.
Please do not use the MS Word format for attachments either.
For more information, see http://pcbcn10.phys.rug.nl/e-mail.html

Attachment: signature.asc
Description: Digital signature

Reply to: