My workplace uses an open source project with an AGPL 3.0 license. It's been abandoned as far as I can tell – no commits for 5 years aside from a handful of contributed pull requests (the most recent of which was 3 years ago, by me.)

I've created a fork of the project and started rewriting large swaths of the 20 year old codebase. My primary intention is to make it more usable and reliable for my company's internal use. But the fork is public on Github so anyone could theoretically download it.

The project consists of PHP code, and the footer of every page displayed to the user contains a notice that the software is AGPL licensed, as well as a copyright notice from the original developers:

Foo 2.0 is licensed under the AGPL 3. Copyright (C) 2004-2015 - FooBar S.L.

In addition, the first page seen after logging in contains not only this notice but the full text of the AGPL 3.

My question is, do I have any obligation to leave this old copyright footer in place on each page? Would it be sufficient instead to display this information when a user first logs in? In either case, should I keep the existing wording? (I'm not sure how resilient copyright is, compared to the AGPL which I know is fairly permanent.)

  • 1
    Copyright and the AGPL are exactly as resilient as each other because the AGPL is effective only because of copyright. Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 20:55
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    You can't remove the copyright notices, but the AGPL does not force you to show these notices in a particular place – so you could probably move them elsewhere. As a rule of thumb: wherever you assert your own copyright you should also attribute the other copyright holders.
    – amon
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 10:19

1 Answer 1


Copyright does not simply fade away over time. It is there to stay, even if a project appears to be abandoned.

What you are doing appears to be a derivative work of the original project, which is called a "modified version" of the earlier work or a work "based on" the earlier work in the AGPL license language. You will have to keep the old copyright notice and add your own new copyright notice, and display it in a license.txt (or similar) file. But this is not enough! The AGPL License states:

  1. Conveying Modified Source Versions.

You may convey a work based on the Program, or the modifications to produce it from the Program, in the form of source code under the terms of section 4, provided that you also meet all of these conditions:

a) The work must carry prominent notices stating that you modified it, and giving a relevant date.

b) The work must carry prominent notices stating that it is released under this License and any conditions added under section 7. This requirement modifies the requirement in section 4 to "keep intact all notices".

c) You must license the entire work, as a whole, under this License to anyone who comes into possession of a copy. This License will therefore apply, along with any applicable section 7 additional terms, to the whole of the work, and all its parts, regardless of how they are packaged. This License gives no permission to license the work in any other way, but it does not invalidate such permission if you have separately received it.

d) If the work has interactive user interfaces, each must display Appropriate Legal Notices; however, if the Program has interactive interfaces that do not display Appropriate Legal Notices, your work need not make them do so.

Obviously, if you run the code on a server for 3rd parties, there are additional requirements in the AGPL license, which I assume you have read and understand.

  • So what it sounds like you’re saying is that, because the original author chose to put a copyright notice on every single page, I’m obliged to maintain them? (To be clear I’m not trying to avoid attribution and intended to keep the notice on the login page, it’s really just about wasting space and being ugly.)
    – miken32
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 13:48
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    The AGPL requirements do not say that you have to keep license and copyright notices everywhere. 1 place is enough, they just need to be somewhere where a reasonable person would easily find them. Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 15:32
  • Ok wasn't sure about keeping notices "intact." No plans to serve this to 3rd parties, so no concerns there. Thanks for your answer.
    – miken32
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 16:29

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