In 2011, I released some open-source code that was licensed using the Apache license. As such, all the source files have this boiler plate message at the top:

   Copyright 2011 My Name

   Licensed under the Apache License... <blah blah>

So now it's 2012, and I am readying to release a version 1.1. As such, most all of the source files have been touched in some way. And some new source code files have been added.

How do I update the copyright date on the existing files? Is the following the correct update to each source file? (i.e. change 2011 to "2011-2012")

   Copyright 2011-2012 My Name

   Licensed under the Apache License... <blah blah>

Do the new source files get Copyright 2011-2012 applied equally as well? Or does the new code just get Copyright 2012?

4 Answers 4


Well, I am not a lawyer, but if I got this right

Copyright Notice: Is the Year Really Necessary?

then "2011" (as the year of first publication) is sufficient. It would be also sufficient to not include any disclaimer for the copyright at all, since you own the copyright with or without a disclaimer. The "license" is different from that, since it defines the terms what other people are allowed to do with your code.


In the hyphenated form, the first date and the second date serve different purposes.

The first date serves to indicate when the earliest material in the file was authored. Implicitly you're saying that any material in this file that was authored prior to that date is not part of what you are claiming copyright to. For example, if I take a file from you in 2006 and I start adding to it, my "Copyright 2006-8" indicates that anything in versions prior to 2006 wasn't covered by this notice.

The last date serves to indicate the latest copyright date for any material in the file. So if the copyright is held by a corporation, 99 years from then the corporation's claim on the content would have expired.

However, it basically doesn't matter because copyright notices are not required anyway. You have copyright whether or not the notice is there. And even when there is such a notice, it's understood that there may be material covered by copyright that's not covered by the notice. (If you don't put a copyright notice in a file and I modify it, I may add a copyright notice that only covers my work. Yours is still there though.)

Basically: If you make significant changes, adding new protected expression authored either before the earliest year or after the latest year in the notice, bump the corresponding year.


Understand that copyright does expire - leaving aside complicated rules suffice to say that the year of copyright defines when the knowledge becomes public domain.

If you have a source file created in 2006 containing package that is evolving for say another 5 years. Now if you had a file that has remained unchanged since 2006 on a package that got release in 2012- you have a choice to put either date as a copyright date.

I guess there is no such thing as Copyright 2011-2012 there needs to be only one integer for year in the copyright.

However, note that copyright grants a very long duration (essentially lifetime of the author, plus a number of years after death) so this is not quite worrying!


In our company, legal dept. suggests to only update the copyright year for major releases only.

In source code I would definitely not bother.

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