As I am reviewing a BSD license for an open source library to use it in my commercial product, I found this paragraph:

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms are permitted provided that the above copyright notice and this paragraph are duplicated in all such forms and that any documentation, advertising materials, and other materials related to such distribution and use acknowledge that the software was developed by the organization.

Its clear that I have to mention the copyright notice, but as for the next paragraph:

The name of the organization may not be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission.

If I just put the copyright notice of the used library, is that considered as I am promoting my product by mentioning the library copyrights notice? Shall I seek a written permission? or I just need to add the copyright notice only?

4 Answers 4


You are, By including the copyright notice, fulfilling the terms of the BSD license for the library, and to draw your users attention to the terms that they have to accept to use the library.

My understanding of the intention of the clause you have highlighted is that its there to prevent you from claiming that as part of this license you have any partnership, sponsorship or that the third party has in any way seen, reviewed, or approved your specific use of their library.

  • @SamirSabri the only foolproof way is to (let a lawyer) read the full text of the license Sep 19, 2013 at 14:33
  • So, no worries not to get a permission? Sep 19, 2013 at 14:34
  • 1
    @ratchetfreak That's considered foolproof? Asking a lawyer is getting a legal opinion. Its an opinion, not a fact. In the US, I believe that gives you some protection should it come to court and you were wrong. A court can make an opinion too (a judgement), and that carries much more weight than a lawyers opinion. Sep 19, 2013 at 14:46

In general, you do not need to get permission to include a copyright notice when redistributing a piece of BSD-licensed software. Indeed, if it were necessary, then you could not satisfy the license's first mandatory condition without permission, which would cause it to violate both Free Software and Open Source definitions. So, we can be certain that either 1) both the OSI and FSF have gravely misunderstood the BSD license text or 2) you can include copyright notices without running afoul of the no-promotion clause.

However, it may still be possible to display your copyright notice in such a way that it suggests promotion. For example, if your software used a library made by Google, it would be very misleading to include a message where you present the name of the organization in way that suggests endorsement, like

"Based on Foo Library, copyright GOOGLE, INC., 2011" (That's as big as Markdown will let me make it, but imagine the name perhaps ten or fifteen times larger.)

Whether a particular copyright notice display could be reasonably considered to imply endorsement is a decision made by a judge. If you are still worried that your unobtrusive copyright notice might be confused for endorsement, you might include a disclaimer alongside the notice like:

While this software is based upon software developed by <organization>, this software distribution, <your software name>, is in no way endorsed by <organization>.

Any similarly-phrased is certainly a helpful step toward indicating a good-faith attempt to follow the conditions of the license. Whether it's enough to protect you against all judgments in all jurisdictions seems impossible to say (and certainly not possible for a non-lawyer like me to say).

If you're still worried that you might attract legal attention, then consult a lawyer, who can give vastly better advice that strangers on the Internet.


Man, that's an ancient variant of the BSD license. U.C.Berkeley rewrote the canonical BSD license in 1999 to remove the "advertising materials" clause. It's self-contradictory - you must include the attribution including the organization's name, but you cannot include the organization's name.


If I just put the copyright notice of the used library, is that considered as I am promoting my product by mentioning the library copyrights notice?

That's not relevant.

The restriction of the license is that you can't claim that the author of the BSD code is somehow endorsing or is involved with your product; only that your software includes code they wrote.

Shall I seek a written permission? or I just need to add the copyright notice only?

The only thing you are required to do is to put the Copyright notice and a copy of the full license in your documentation and in all other places you put Copyright claims or notices. It's sufficient to put a copy of the license in among other documentation as a file in the copies of your software that you distribute.

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