Assume I have a public source code repository. Am I violating copyright laws if there's any old commit where I have not yet added all copyright info for other people's open source code?

Details: Consider this theoretical scenario:

  1. I copy-paste someone else's open source code files into a repository.
  2. I commit.
  3. I prefix copyright and licensing info at the top of the above-mentioned files.
  4. I commit.
  5. Many months passes, many people fork various versions of the master branch.

Now, many months later, I realize that there are files in commit no. 1 with no copyright info.

Do I have to squash the two above-mentioned commits, and rebase the whole repository? (Although it's been published! Everyone would be annoyed?)

Or does it suffice that the current repo version provides all needed copyright info?

Rephrased, for Git: If the HEAD of all Git branches, and all "published" Git tags, contain all required copyright and licensing info, do you think that suffice? And it'd be other people's responsibilities if they check out other commits and redistribute? Or am I the culprit, and will be thrown in prison?

  • INAL but I think since it currently has copywright on it then you cant get protected. Dec 20, 2012 at 13:59
  • @TomSquires I cannot get protected? From what? :-)
    – KajMagnus
    Dec 20, 2012 at 14:05
  • prosecuted >.< sorry, typo Dec 20, 2012 at 14:06

1 Answer 1


Copyright law does not require a copyright notice on each copy made, so you are not directly in violation of copyright law. However, without a copyright notice, you may technically be in violation of the distribution license, depending on which license. The primary goal of open source licenses is to promulgate any modifications, which you are doing, and you corrected the notice, so I wouldn't worry about it, unless there is some reason people would commonly check out the version without the notice.

  • 2
    Thanks! The reason I'm asking is actually that I'm about to publish a repo that includes some open source code snippets I've copy-paste-edited from other people. And I was feeling some despair that I would have to scrutinize all old commits for any forgotten copyright info. Now I suppose I'll simply ensure that the current version is okay. — Actually, I wouldn't have gone through all old commits. Instead, I would have had Git-squashed everything and lost the version history.
    – KajMagnus
    Dec 20, 2012 at 14:27

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