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Is there a known open-source license where the user who reuses or redistributes the code is not required to give credit to the author? This is actually the same as just assuming copyright to the collection but placing the contents on the public domain.

P.S.

For me that is the real "open" and real "free" software, for not only everyone that uses it but also everyone that reads it and contributes to it is not bound to and is free in mind from any conditions that could prevent from them doing anything on the software (including parts of software that already resides within their brains) . No forced or not-so-obvious or tempted viral injection of philosophies.

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    Many open source licenses do not require attribution. MIT, BSD 2-clause, GPL, ... – user53019 Mar 22 '15 at 0:24
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    @GlenH7 MIT license requires "The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.". BSD 2-clause requires "Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice". And as for GPL, I'm not sure how "publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice" would mean - it's not clear if it would be necesseray to still retain the copryright information from the original author. Anyhow, GPL actually requires that you use GPL on reused code again so it's still not good for me. – konsolebox Mar 22 '15 at 0:39
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    I would point out that it is not just assuming copyright to the collection. There is no license that grants you the copyright. The essence of all licenses is that through the permissions of the copyright, you are granted the ability to do such and such. – user40980 Mar 22 '15 at 1:09
  • @konsolebox I don't really get what you would like to be ideally able to do. You want to be able to include copies of the software in your product and then delete all notices of where it came from? – Brandin Mar 22 '15 at 7:21
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    Could you clarify what you don't want to permit? If the answer is nothing, you may way to look into releasing the software in to the public domain. – Martijn Mar 22 '15 at 14:37
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There is no license that does not claim copyright of the work. Those are two contradictory concepts. The ability to grant permission to create derivative works and distribute is what the copyright provides the original copyright holder. The license allows you to do these things.

Setting that aside...

Licenses that don't require attribution and provide the appropriate disclaimer of warranty are very dangerous for a company to use (I wouldn't use one) and possibly for the author to release. The lack of disclaimer of warranty means that in some jurisdictions, if someone hooks it up to a rocket that explodes, they can sue you (note that most places anyone can sue anyone for anything). Whether or not they will prevail is up in the air... but the issue remains.

Furthermore, there are jurisdictions that don't acknowledge public domain. In these jurisdictions, you can't use "public domain" software as it is equivalent to all rights reserved.

The right thing to do is to release your software under a permissive license that has the disclaimer of warranty, claim of copyright and appropriate license. The licenses are there to protect you and those who use your software by explicitly stating what you are granting and what they may do with it.

If that license isn't there, I wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole, and I'm fairly sure any legal department wouldn't let developers at their companies do anything with it either.


The essence of a license is "I, ${name}, own said work and provide it under such and such terms." If I do not have documentation of what terms you grant the use of the software under, I risk not following them and legal repercussions. If you have patents (or trademark) in the software and don't release it under something that grants me patent (or trademark) use (such as the Apache 2.0 License), I can get in big trouble.

Thus, trying to get away with a "do whatever" license, it limits the people who would use it to only those who don't care about the repercussions of possibly stepping on a patent (whatever your feeling of them, it is a risk) or if you get a lawyer to state a different interpretation of a lesser known license than the one that I hire.

If you want something to be as free (libre) as possible and without restriction, it is best to use a well known license that follows the proper protocols for being a good license such as the Apache 2.0, MIT, BSD 2 clause or similar.

You can't give it away, because people who are aware of these issues won't touch it if you try.


When I say that its dangerous to use - its dangerous for me to use software that doesn't have a license (or one that I don't understand the nuances of).

If there is no license on the software saying how I may use it, when you die your estate (the owners of the copyright then) may change the license. If there is nothing saying that I may use it, I've got to stop using it right then. For that matter, if the license is legally dubious (such as the beerware or wtfpl) there may be difficulties for me saying "nope, that isn't legal and is reverting to all rights reserved."

There is also the possibility that another party may claim that the source code that I am using (that I got from you) is theirs. Without a license saying "this is where I got it and how I may use it" it becomes problematic for me.

Lastly, there are the patents that may be hidden behind source code that some licenses won't protect me from. If you have a patent on some aspect of the software that is there and release it with something that doesn't have a patent grant (such as the Apache), I can get in big trouble.

For me, the risks of using software that isn't a well understood license aren't worth it. Many legal departments at companies won't touch licenses that aren't on their approved list (or spend the appropriate amount of time to properly understand the legal implications of it). And they are serious about this.

If you want your source code to be useably by everyone, chose a license that people understand, has the appropriate grants of permission and states clearly what I may do with it. If you don't want to claim the copyright on it, it is too risky for me to use.

  • It's not entirely clear from this answer why not requiring attribution is so dangerous. It is fairly clear why lacking indemnity or explicit permission to use, distribute, modify, etc is problematic, but those were not the primary focus of the question. – Nathan Tuggy Mar 22 '15 at 3:47
  • @NathanTuggy it is dangerous for me to use such software. It opens me up to questions of "who has the copyright on that code" if someone other than the author that I got it from claims that it is infringing. Consider that I got it from you who got the code OP and Eva got it from the OP and then sues me for copyright infringement of the common code we both got the code from the OP... and since I can't show where I got the code from or that the date on the code is older, or that I have a license to use it in the first place. Not that it is dangerous for the OP, but that its dangerous for me. – user40980 Mar 22 '15 at 14:26
  • OK, that's exactly the sort of rationale I was looking for. Can you edit that in, possibly expanding a bit more? – Nathan Tuggy Mar 22 '15 at 21:33
  • @MichaelT Is it contradictory to claim copyright of the identity but not the volatile contents that composes it? (Consider reading my reply.) And I believe all these concerns can be remedied enough with proper publication and being well-known by the public with long-term use of people. You can actually be correct about the public domain however I know many softwares that already work well with it e.g. 7-zip/XZ; so it's not really a concern for me - even as a user. – konsolebox Mar 23 '15 at 6:58
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Licenses in this category include:

  • WTFPL - Due to its language, some people think it's not a valid license; I've also heard lawyers say that it's not a good license because it lacks an indemnity clause.
  • Many licenses in the general category of Beerware - In some variations, the only real license stipulation is "if we meet, feel free to buy me a beer."
  • Creative Commons CC0 - This is the only real "Public Domain dedication" license out there, because it's crafted to be valid in nearly every country that has Copyright laws, and it functions like a Public Domain dedication in those countries that don't actually have Public Domain.
  • The zlib/libpng license, which only requires that you don't misrepresent the source of the software - using it in a larger work doesn't require attribution.

There are several other examples I've seen, most of which fall in the "beerware" category.

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    Seriously, why did you pick obscure and (in some cases) legally dubious examples? There are a few mainstream open source licenses that don't require attribution. – Stephen C Mar 22 '15 at 6:44
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    @StephenC: If you object to my list, do you have better examples? These are the best examples of extremely permissive licenses I know of. – greyfade Mar 22 '15 at 16:12
  • Well, if I claim that this is my software, by not crediting the original source I might "misrepresent" the source. – johannes Mar 22 '15 at 21:09
  • @grayface - Simplified BSD and all flavours of GPL ... for a start. Then MIT and the Perl "Artistic License". In fact, this more or less covers 7 our of the 8 most commonly used licenses according to blackducksoftware.com/resources/data/… – Stephen C Mar 22 '15 at 22:12
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    @StephenC The OP has explicitly said that any requirement to preserve copyright notices runs afoul of the question's "must not require credit" requirement, so the GPL, BSD, and MIT are soundly out of bounds, as they all require the preservation of copyright notices. This answer lists licenses that do not require the preservation of copyright notices. – apsillers Mar 23 '15 at 13:56
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Is there a known open-source license where the user who reuses or redistributes the code is not required to give credit to the author?

Sure ... lots of them!

This is actually the same as just assuming copyright to the collection but placing the contents on the public domain.

I don't know where you got that notion from. It is completely wrong ... and would be unworkable if it was correct.

The copyright of an open source licensed product X remains with the authors of X

The copyright of a product Y that uses an existing open source product X remains with the authors of Y.

The only issue is whether the authors of Y have permission (granted by the copyright-based license of X) to do what they want / need to do.

Giving credit is an orthogonal issue. It is nothing to do with granting or receiving a grant of copyright. Indeed giving credits to someone gives them no rights of any kind. It is just like saying "thank you" to the people whose work you are building on.


MIT license requires "The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.". BSD 2-clause requires "Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice". And as for GPL, I'm not sure how "publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice" would mean - it's not clear if it would be necesseray to still retain the copryright information from the original author.

These are not requirements for giving credit.

They are actually requirements on you to not take away the author's statement of his / her rights, and claim of copyright. And why should you? If you want the original author's rights, get out your chequebook and pay for them!!


For me that is the real "open" and real "free" software, for not only everyone that uses it but also everyone that reads it and contributes to it is not bound to and is free in mind from any conditions that could prevent from them doing anything on the software (including parts of software that already resides within their brains) .

Fair enough. But it is interesting that most people who publish open source software for free do actually require something in return. If you don't like that, you need to find code that matches your philosophy. But don't expect / demand other developers to conform to >>your<< notion of freedom :-).

However, the notion that a copyright-based license could have any legal hold over software that (somehow) resides in someone's brain is ... fanciful.

  • Your reply is mostly for a user looking for a shared code and not about an author who is wanting to share his works in the least restricted manner. "Sure ... lots of them!" Thank you. Would you be kind enough to name one? – konsolebox Mar 23 '15 at 7:10
  • "These are not requirements for giving credit." It probably was a mistake that I used the word "credit" over more descriptive words like "attribution" (my reply was even a reply to it) or "acknowledgement of ownership / authorship" etc. however I believe that's already obviously implied. "They are actually requirements on you to not take away the author's statement of his / her rights, and claim of copyright. And why should you? If you want the original author's rights ..." Somehow it's really unnecessary to dig out the difference just to give your common point. – konsolebox Mar 23 '15 at 7:47
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It is impossible to give up ownership of copyright in the United States, and most other countries. You have it, whether you want to or not, and you can't give it up, whether you want to or not.

The most permissive thing you can do, is release it under something like the creative commons public domain dedication, usually abbreviated to CC-0: https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

This allows anyone to use the software for anything without any conditions.

Copyright isn't the only intellectual property. You could take out a trademark, which is another form of intellectual property, on the name of your software. A trademark is orthogonal to copyright; they cover different things, and can be mixed and matched any way you like. Things that are covered by trademark law aren't covered by copyright law, the same goes for the other way round.

Reading your comments, it seems that it might be a trademark you're looking for, rather than a copyright license.

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