If you were putting some work of yours online (say, a research project still in development or something alike) and it had to be made available to the public, but you wished that if someone uses it, he has to acknowledge the original author (i.e. you don't want anyone pushing your research as their own) what would be a good licence to use?

In other words, you wish to protect your own work which, were it not for some rules, would never been actually made public.

  • Not looking for "get a lawyer" opinions. I know that one - but wish to hear from people in here. Surely some of them have been in this situation.
    – Rook
    Apr 10, 2011 at 10:03
  • 1
    You might want to start by reviewing some of the popular license models for doing that: gnu.org/licenses/licenses.html Apr 10, 2011 at 10:13
  • Pushing one's research as someone else's own has been there for centuries, even before the first line of code was written or a first license was attached to a source code file. Thus, license won't help you much...
    – P Shved
    Apr 10, 2011 at 14:09
  • Can you explain why it has to be made public? If there are rules about making it public, don't they specify the manner in which?
    – Jaap
    May 31, 2011 at 19:45
  • Specifically, what has to be public? What are you required to allow the public to do? May 31, 2011 at 21:02

3 Answers 3


By default, I believe you own the copyright on all your work unless you explicitly create a license. Some people stick a copyright header on their work, but it isn't legally necessary; however, given the nature of most open-source and the likelihood of people mistaking the license it's probably polite.

See this article about Microsoft and Plurk. The fact that Plurk had made its code public (by publishing Javascript, HTML and CSS) did not give Microsoft the right to use it.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and if you want definitive legal advice you should find one. You could try boosting the intellectual property StackExchange while you're at it.

  • To have copyright, one must prove copyright. Which is sometimes not an easy thing to do (expecially with work yet unpublished, which must be made public).
    – Rook
    Apr 10, 2011 at 23:27
  • @Rook, I believe one must only prove ownership and that the work has not been released under a different license, but like I said, I'm not a lawyer. Please note that software might be copyrightable but ideas are not. You will also have a battle stopping people from using bits of your code if they feel like it. Try this website for more info: benedict.com
    – Lunivore
    Apr 11, 2011 at 9:00
  • 1
    @Rook: In almost all countries, you have copyright the moment you create something tangible (and words on disk that appear on the screen counts). I don't know what you mean by "proving" copyright; are you confusing this with patents? May 31, 2011 at 21:00

4-clause BSD license. The clause 3. (a.k.a "the advertising clause") is of particular interest to you.

All advertising materials mentioning features or use of this software must display the following acknowledgement: This product includes software developed by [...your name...]

Note however, that newer, GPL-compatible BSD licenses don't have that clause, so be sure to choose exactly the 4-clause one.


The most restrictive Free & Open licence I'm aware of is the GNU AGPL v.3. It demands that even when the code is not distributed, but only used over a server (SAAS model), it still must be made public.

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