Question Regarding Copyright Issue For An Open Source Project

Jeffrey O'Neill jeff.oneill at
Fri Jul 31 11:58:48 UTC 2009

Hi Yan,

Congratulations on the success of your project.  I'll tell you what I
do for my project (

I suggest keeping the ownership of your project in a single person or entity.

I ask contributors to assign ownership of any code they write to me.
In the copyright statements, I thus list just my own name.  This
requires some trust on the part of your contributors, but because of
the GPL the contributors can always fork and keep going if there is
some kind of dispute.  (Here is another option:

You could create an entity, but you probably have to pay to create
that entity so this likely is not a worthwhile option unless your
project starts generating revenue (through ads, donations, or
something else).

The primary reason to have a single owner is to be able to do
something if someone violates the GPL.  Enforcing the GPL is a lot
easier if one person owns the code.  Another reason is that it makes
it easier to switch to a different license.

The year in the copyright line indicates the year the work was
created, and this puts the public on notice of the start of the
copyright term.  If you first create your code in 2000, then you start
with that year.  If in 2001, you modify your code, then you've created
a new copyrighted work.  Because of this, I use a range of years to
indicate the first creation year and the most recent modification
year, e.g., 2000-2006.

Hope this helps.


On Thu, Jul 30, 2009 at 11:45 PM, Yan Cheng Cheok<yccheok at> wrote:
> Now, the project is getting attention from the public. There are increasing number of programmers are joining in. I was wondering :
> (1) When there is a programmer modify my original source code file, do I need to add his name in the copyright section. But, with the increasing number of programmer, isn't that will keep the header almost unreadable?
> For example :
>  * Copyright (C) 2009 Yan Cheng Cheok <yccheok at>, John <john at>
> (2) If a programmer add a new source code file, the source code copyright shall belong to whom? Me? Or him?
> (3) If there is a mixed copyright source code in a project, say,
> A.c, B.c, C.c source code file is copyrighted Yan Cheng Cheok
> D.c, E.c, F.c source code file is copyrighted John
> Will there be an issue? Say, in the future, John decide to switch D.c, E.c, F.c using different license, and Yan Cheng Cheok doesn't agree with it...... Who will have a final say then?
> In order to avoid this type of conflict, shall I enforce all commited source code shall be copyright under me? But, I also do not want the new developer feel that his work is not being credited properly.
> (4) Is there really to have <year> in the copyright information? If I put 2009, does that mean in 2010, I am no longer holding the copyright?
> Thanks and Regards
> Yan Cheng Cheok

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