I'm adding copyright notices to all my source code files:

Copyright (C) 2013 My-First-Name My-Surname
  1. But what if someone else is also named My-First-Name My-Surname? What does courts think about that? How would they know who is the real author? Is there something I can/should do about this situation? (So they'd know for sure)

  2. What if I change my surname. Then, how do other people know that I'm still the copyright holder? Is there something I can/should do, to avoid trouble with copyright, after I've changed my name?

An example of when the above could be of interest: Someone gets married and change his/her surname and moves to a new address. Then, even if s/he has submitted his/her source code to the U.S. Copyright Office, that was done using his/her old name and address. Now s/he however has a new name and address. But there is perhaps other people that have the old name (but not also the old address). (In my country, for any first + middle + surname, there are usually many people with that full name.)

Apparently people think this is a weird question, but I've read about rather many very decisions made in courts, e.g. someone suing for hot coffee and winning millions of dollars.

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    Voting to close as this isn't a programming question, it's a legal question, as well as being a hypothetical. Courts (generally) aren't stupid. If there was a dispute over which person with the same name was the copyright holder they'd require evidence of authorship. Jun 1, 2013 at 16:04
  • Voting to close, but with a suggestion: get a domain name. That will be unique. You don't need to add hosting etc. if you don't want to. Jun 1, 2013 at 18:08
  • @CharlesE.Grant and MarjanVenema: Does there happen to be another StackExchange site that's more appropriate? I had the impression that licensing & copyright questions were okay at Programmers.
    – KajMagnus
    Jun 1, 2013 at 21:25
  • CharlesE.Grant and @MarjanVenema: Okay, so if I have access to the relevant Git repo, and to the related domain name, I suppose that would resolve any conflicts with anyone else with the same name. And I get the feeling that "(born 1979)" really isn't needed. Thanks
    – KajMagnus
    Jun 1, 2013 at 21:27
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    @KajMagnus: When and if you have to go to court to defend your copyright, you will be asked to produce your copyright registration certificate. Your possession of the certificate establishes your ownership of the copyrighted material. The Bad Guy may have the same name as you, but he won't have physical possession of your copyright registration certificate, ergo, he won't be able to produce it in court. Jun 2, 2013 at 7:00

1 Answer 1


Copyright notices are optional in any country that is part of the Berne Convention (e.g., the USA). You have a copyright in everything you write, even if you don't include a notice. Adding a notice increases the legal risk to someone who violates your copyright. If you really want to hit them with a big stick, you don't just include a notice, but also register your copyright (in the USA, with the US Copyright Office), then any damages you get to claim increase significantly.

The whole point is to put others on notice that you own the code. It is not to establish your ownership.

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    Berne Convention notwithstanding, if you ever have to go to court in the USA to defend your copyright against a scumbag, you will need that copyright registration certificate. At best, your case will be thrown out if you don't have the certificate. At worst, the scumbag will have filed for registration, HE will show up with a certificate, and YOU WILL LOSE YOUR CASE unless you can produce a copyright registration certificate that predates his. I am aware of the provisions of the Berne Convention: I am telling you about the reality on the ground. Jun 2, 2013 at 7:05
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    @JohnR.Strohm: And another case where US litigation system has gone haywire and has lost its ability to protect and defend those in the right against those willing to abuse it for their own gain. Jun 2, 2013 at 9:01

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