Lots of projects on GitHub have a GPL3 License, as it's easily created by their software when you want to add a license and you choose GPL3. However, unlike the MIT license, you don't put your own name in the license. Furthermore, the GPL3 license text says you can't modify it:

Copyright (C) 2007 Free Software Foundation, Inc. https://fsf.org/ Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

I understand the reasons this file can't be modified.

However, where should one put in a GitHub repo the information that you can find in an MIT license, e.g., the copyright that belongs to the person who created the work?

The FSF has the following FAQ and answer:

I want to get credit for my work. I want people to know what I wrote. Can I still get credit if I use the GPL? (#IWantCredit)

You can certainly get credit for the work. Part of releasing a program under the GPL is writing a copyright notice in your own name (assuming you are the copyright holder). The GPL requires all copies to carry an appropriate copyright notice.

GitHub's "add a license" feature doesn't cover this dimension of GPL. How is this done properly. Is it a "Copyright" file that's separate? Are there examples of GitHub repos where this has been done?

My reason for asking is I want to reuse a GPL3 repo and give credit to the original author. However, their own repo doesn't have their copyright info (and I think it's pretty common with GPL3 on GitHub).

My question is related, but significantly different from GPL and original author's copyright text in completely rewritten code, because the answer there doesn't explain where the copyright info is stored (in each source file, in a LICENSE.md, etc.)

  • 1
    Have a look at the appendix at the end of the GPL license text, "How to Apply These Terms to Your New Programs"
    – apsillers
    Jul 16, 2022 at 16:23
  • I posted an answer below that is basically a copy of an answer on the software engineering stack exchange. Jul 16, 2022 at 18:12

1 Answer 1


You have to put the copyright at the start of each source file, according to the answer at https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/a/281951/51948

Here's the correct way to apply the license:

  1. In every source code file, insert the following in a comment (fill in *program name* and *your name* and *years*):

     This file is part of *program name*.
     Copyright (C) *years* *your name*
     *program name* is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify
     it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
     the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or
     (at your option) any later version.
     This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
     but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
     GNU General Public License for more details.
     You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
     along with this program.  If not, see <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/>.
  2. Put a file called LICENSING or COPYING or something like that in the root of the project folder. Put the entire GPL (here is the official text) in that file. The file must contain the verbatim GPL; do not change it in any way.

  • For the files of the original author that were missing the notice: did you add in the missing notice (with the original author's) in your copy?
    – Brandin
    Jul 19, 2022 at 9:40
  • @Brandin no, but I only reused one of the original files, and under my notice I put a url to the original file. Jul 19, 2022 at 11:55

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