Cinly Ooi cinly.ooi at
Wed Jul 2 17:42:02 UTC 2008

IANAL, here is what I think:
(0)There is a requirement under GPL wording itself to put the header in. I
think SCO was trying to say at one time that because there were no header
they are not bound by GPL but drop this later.
(0.1) Putting the GPL header in every file makes it unambigious that the
file is indeed under GPL. This can be at times important, especially if you
mixed files that are GPL-ed, and others which are not  in the same
(0.2)Practically speaking, putting those lines in is a pain, even if you use
IDE's feature to auto insert it everytime it creates new file. I sometimes
do not put the header in, but say "Distributed under Generic Public License
version X".
(0.3)If I do not see the GPL header, I have to assume that I do not have the
rights to use the file, unless other indicators, such as COPYING file is
present in the package. In that case, I assume that all files without
license header which I am certain written by the developers, are distributed
under the condition of the COPYING file.
(0.4)As you can see from (0.3), if individual file you GPL-ed but had not
put in the header somehow get detached from the package, nobody will know
that it is GPL-ed and technically cannot use your GPL-ed file. That is why
it is a good idea to put the GPL-ed Header in (or if you are me, put some
indicator that the file is GPLed)
(1)If you had used GPL software written by somebody else, then you need the
full header. That is because you are duty-bounded by the authors of the GPL
software you used. It is the condition of using their software that your
software is GPL-ed, and you indicate your compliance by putting the GPL
header in every file.
(2)If you had written the program from scratch, then since you have full
discretion on what to do as far as copyright is concern, you technically
speaking do not need to put the GPL header in since by default, the code is
unusable by others. All you have to do then is to tell someone in writing or
otherwise, that they can have the code under GPL.


2008/7/2 Paolo Ciarrocchi <paolo.ciarrocchi at>:

> Hi all,
> a friend of mine wants to release a CMS under GPLv3.
> We disagree on how the licence should be inserted in the package.
> I think, please correct me if I'm wrong, that the only think he should do
> is to put the licence in a COPYING file (which will be part of the package)
> and
> optionally add to the header of every single file the following lines:
> --
> Copyright (C) yyyy  nome dell'autore
> This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or
> modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License
> as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2
> of the License, or (at your option) any later version.
> This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
> but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
> GNU General Public License for more details.
> You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
> along with this program; if not, write to the Free Software
> Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston, MA  02111-1307, USA.
> --
> I think this is optional even because a lot of gpl software (Linuk
> kernel, GIT, mercurial etc etc)
> just add the COPYNG file.
> My friend believe that he should add the whole licence to every single
> file of the package.
> Can you please clarify?
> Thanks a lot in advance.
> Ciao,
> --
> Paolo

Best Regards,
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