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If I am the copyright holder of a project licensed under the MIT license, can I change the name in the copyright notice? For example after a name change or changing to/from a pseudonym. Note that (unlike the other questions that have been posted about this) this is not about someone else's project, but one that is owned exclusively by myself.

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If you are the sole copyright holder, then the answer is very simple: You are not bound by any license, so you are allowed to do anything you want including those things that most licenses forbid.

If you are not the sole copyright holder (e.g. you accepted contributions from others), then things become more complicated but not all is lost.

If there are only a few copyright holders, you can just formally ask for their approval to make those changes to the copyright notices. And some jurisdictions also allow in their copyright laws that factual errors in copyright notices are corrected.

And lastly, copyright notices don't carry that much legal weight nowadays. At best, they are an aid in establishing who owns the copyrights and if you can make a plausible case that you used that name/pseudonym around the time mentioned in the copyright notice, then that should be sufficient to establish you as a copyright holder.

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  • Why would changing your own copyright notices be a problem even if it's MIT-licensed? There's a very literal argument that you have to preserve all notices, but having to preserve your own notices is clearly not in the spirit of the license.
    – amon
    Feb 26 at 15:43
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    I agree with @amon: if Bob modified Alice's code, and then Alice merged in Bob's changes, and then she decided to change her own name on her copy of Alice+Bob's work, I cannot imagine a court granting success to Bob if he decides to sue Alice over her changed copyright notice. But I admit I don't have a specific legal basis for this intuition, so perhaps I'm wrong.
    – apsillers
    Feb 26 at 17:12
  • @amon, I prefer to err on the side of a too strict interpretation of the law. I also don't see a judge ruling against an author modifying their own copyright notices in a work with multiple copyright holders, but it is even better to avoid the whole mess of a lawsuit. Feb 27 at 12:38

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