license and copyright

kmself at kmself at
Tue Oct 10 20:52:11 UTC 2000

On Tue, Oct 10, 2000 at 10:02:32AM +0200, Ferdinando Ametrano (ferdinando at wrote:
> Hi all
> I will announce a new open source project in a few days, but I still have a 
> few questions for which I would like to receive some help. I am especially 
> confused about copyright stuff.
> 1) I've chosen a XFree86-style licence (or is it called XConsortium/MIT 
> style licence?), that is a BSD style licence without the advertising 
> clause. I append a prototype of this licence at the end of this message.
> Since the license itself has to be copyrighted, my question is: who should 
> copyright it? Is it me?

This is itself an interesting question -- copyright in legal documents.
There's an argument that legal documents are inherently functional,
and/or when they appear in court or legal procedings, they become part
of the public record.  Arguments exist for both sides of this argument.

It's not clear to me that you can, or need to, secure copyright on the
license itself.  However, adding a copyright line probably won't hurt --
though it doesn't carry much legal import in the US and most Berne
signatory countries either.

> 2) I and my colleagues will be providing the initial code base to the 
> project. Should we have a copyright line in each file?

This is a good project management practice, falling largely outside the
realm of copyright for reasons similar to above.  You have copyright in
your own works of original authorship.  Noting same aids in bookkeeping.

> 3) What about later changes of existing (copyrighted) files? Should every 
> developer copyright his modification?

Again, to a large extent, a project management issue, though your
license allows addition of additional terms to the original license.
Legal implications may exist.  Generally, contributing authors add a
copyright notice to files they've modified.  Some projects use a
seperate CONTRIBUTORS or similar file.

> Wouldn't this approach turn every file into a mess of copyright lines?

This might be seen as the sign of a successful project.  It's one of
those problems that's a sign of success.

> thanks for you help
> ciao -- Nando

Karsten M. Self <kmself at>
 Evangelist, Opensales, Inc.          
  What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?      There is no K5 cabal
GPG fingerprint: F932 8B25 5FDD 2528 D595 DC61 3847 889F 55F2 B9B0
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