Lets say I have a project which has evolved over the past year. When I began the project, I looked around for open source projects which provided as much of the base system as I could find, and finally settled on an Apache 2.0 Licensed project.

Over the past year, the project has evolved a lot, leaving very little resemblance to the original project. Basically the only similarities left are the project's source directory structure, and ideas left in-tact here and there (very few complete class files are original, most are either totally re-written or mostly due to this project's requirements).

At what point do I stop attributing to the original project? At what point have I diverged so severely as to be safe in saying I own copyright over this entire work as well as licensed under my terms?

  • 3
    The Apache 2.0 license doesn't have any provisions for removing attributions. If your position is that it is now an original work, then remove the license, assume copyright and see what happens. I have no legal basis whatsoever for saying this, but if you clean-room rewrite the remaining classes from the original project, then you can probably call the project yours. – Robert Harvey May 26 '15 at 17:47
  • 3
    "At what point do you drop attribution to original work?" reduces to the problem "At what level of change does a derived work stop being a derived work?" I suspect the answer to this question is either "Never," or "It is impossible to tell without a court ruling." – apsillers May 26 '15 at 17:48
  • 4
    I would suggest that you never completely drop attribution, but eventually reduce the attribution to a single statement in your main licensing file that your project is a total rewrite of whatever which has this other license. At least then it's very hard to accuse you of trying to hide anything. – Ixrec May 26 '15 at 17:51
  • @Ixrec That is what I was leaning towards doing. Does anything change if I mention my project has nothing to do with the original project, ie. Orig project does A,B, and C, my project does X, Y, and Z (not even the same type of application, I just used their base to get started quicker writing the "plumbing" such as database pool, logging system, plugin loader, etc... which fast-forward to today, has been mostly re-written to adhere to my project's specifications and requirements). – SnakeDoc May 26 '15 at 17:55
  • 6


As long as the project's code has a direct descendent to an Apache 2.0 License you should never remove attribution.

If you do a greenfield project where every single line is new and not copied over, then you can remove attribution.

There are some things you should never cut corners on, proper procedures around licensing are one of them.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    "should never remove attribution" is too weak, and implies that this is a question of ethics. It should be "you are not allowed to remove attribution". – Gort the Robot May 26 '15 at 19:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.