[legal-discuss] Copyright statements in source

Richard Fontana rfontana at redhat.com
Tue Jan 21 19:31:54 UTC 2014

On Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 10:07:51AM -0800, Vishvananda Ishaya wrote:
> I wonder if we could just replace the copyright lines with a generic statement
> Copyright by various authors. See source control for contribution history.
> or something to that effect? 

I believe I may have suggested "Copyright OpenStack Project
developers" or something similar to that in the earlier thread. 

There might be some disagreement over whether that's a formally
accurate copyright notice, though I've come around to thinking it is,
and the formal correctness of a copyright notice in an individual
source file is of very low legal significance. 'Copyright ProjectName'
achieves some of the non-legal goals of having explicit copyright
notices. Some projects also use the approach you've suggested, though
thus far I've never recommended that.

If the license notice remains in the file, this mitigates the concern
that having no legal information in a source file could lead to one of
two bad future events if a source file ends up being indirectly taken
out of context by some other project: either the project is too afraid
to use the code because of unclear licensing, or the project will
assume it's 'public domain' with no conditions attached.

> There has also been concern that the name / email
> of an author doesn t make it clear who the copyright owner of the code is. We
> could allow an optional copyright notice in the commit message to address this.

Indeed perhaps it is better to try to attempt to address the copyright
issue through commit messages instead of source file headers (the
latter tradition having arisen prior to widespread use of VCSes by
open source projects). Some have argued for this in the past.

 - RF

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