Is there any existing license can a person can use to distribute a document that allows reuse, derivative works, and free distribution, under the condition of it being licensed under the same or a similar license, but without requiring attribution to the original author? The common choice for share-alike seems to be CC-BY-SA, which does require attribution, but what if you want to be able to supply your name as author on the original work, but not impose mention of your name on all derivative works?

On that note, all the other CC licenses also seem to require attribution. Why is that? Does it somehow naturally follow from the other aspects of the license anyway?

I'm not sure how the GFDL would fare with this, but regardless there may be other practical issues with it like requiring printing the license text with each copy of the work.

1 Answer 1


Only a copyright holder (that's usually, but not necessarily, the author) can legally require a license being honoured. Thus without being able to prove that you are a rightsholder, you cannot enforce a license, and you have no ground to force anyone treat your work in a certain manner.

For copyright law being useful to you as copyright holder, you need to be able to prove that you are the rightful holder of the copyright. A copyright statement puts a nametag on the code - whether that's your real name or a pseudonymous one, does not matter too much as long as it is something you can prove somehow (e.g. also via a commit history which uses that pseudonymous name). If you now have code with no attribution attached whatsoever, it will be easy for anyone to 'claim' original ownership by attaching such a copyright note there - and this does not even need to be malice, but just someone who would like credits (and in the absence of your note, everyone will assume on first sight, that they are also the original creator).

This said, you as author decide how you want to see yourself credited. If you choose to not include any copyright notice anywhere, and just the license, you essentially have the information you ask for: code with a license, but no authorship directly named.

  • 1
    "Only an author can legally require a license being honoured" <- Only a copyright holder [...]; I am well aware that the default copyright holder is the author, but there are also many cases when that is not true. Jun 21 at 8:08
  • 1
    Sure. Thanks for the remark. I made a clarifying change accordingly Jun 21 at 8:12
  • 1
    I tidied up the language a little; I hope that's OK. Please revert the edit if not!
    – MadHatter
    Jun 21 at 11:18
  • Sure, thanks a lot! Jun 21 at 11:32
  • @planetmaker You write "Only a copyright holder [...] can legally require a license being honoured." That is not entirely true. If you follow the Software Freedom Conservancy vs. Vizio case (not finally ruled), you will see that also the licensee has certain rights and interest to enforce the license. And yes, this is for GPL, and there does not seem to be a similar case cor CC licenses. And acknowledged, the Vizio case does not impact what you wrote in the 2nd and 3rd paragraph. Jun 22 at 12:37

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.