[legal-discuss] Copyright statements in source

Rich Bowen rbowen at redhat.com
Tue Jan 21 17:31:02 UTC 2014

Stefano suggested that I bring this to the legal-discuss list. I know 
that this has been discussed in the past, so I don't anticipate a great 
shift in sentiment, but it seemed worth discussing.

My full thoughts are on my blog - 
http://drbacchus.com/copyright-statements-in-source-files - and I know 
some of you have seen this discussed on the docs mailing list, or seen 
it on planet.openstack

Anyways, it has been my experience in Open Source communities that 
having a copyright statement at the top of a source file can be very 
off-putting to people who want to contribute to that file, due to the 
perception that it is "owned" by someone in particular.

The statement is not necessary: copyright law ensures that contributors 
have copyright on the content that they author, and git keeps a 
permanent record of who contributed what. Some folks have claimed (the 
last time this came up on this list) that the statement was necessary, 
and this is not the case.

It's also unscalable - think in terms of 10 years from now when every 
file potentially lists hundreds of copyright holders - or perhaps only 
those who saw fit to add their name to the growing list. What would this 

And if people are contributing solely for recognition - which seems at 
least part of the motivation for a copyright statement, perhaps 1) 
they're missing the point of Open Source and 2) we should provide a more 
public means of thanking the enormous list of contributors, rather than 
having it scattered across thousands of files that relatively few people 
will ever see.

Rich Bowen - rbowen at redhat.com
OpenStack Community Liaison

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