When creating a new R package version under an existing MIT licence, should the year be [creation_year], [current_year] or [creation_year - current_year]?

1 Answer 1


The year in a copyright notice is the first year that a work has been published. A work can be the original software, or it can be the changes to a piece of software, assuming that those are significant enough to be protected by copyrights.

If, in a particular year, you have made significant enough changes to the package, you are entitled to add another copyright line to the existing set of copyright lines.

To avoid having a long list of very similar copyright lines like

copyright <year1> Author
copyright <year2> Author
copyright <year3> Author
copyright <year4> Author

it is possible to merge the lines containing copyright statement for the same author, like

copyright <year1>, <year2>, <year3>, <year4> Author

And if that list of years gets too long, you can merge several consecutive years into a range.
For example, if there is a gap between year1 and year2, but the other are all consecutive, the copyright line can also be written as

copyright <year1>, <year2> - <year4> Author

  • 2
    I've not come across this before. Most instances I've seen have been [start year] - [current year]. Is this just your personal opinion, or can you link to some documentation that backs this up as recommended best-practice?
    – HappyDog
    Feb 23 at 9:52
  • @HappyDog, in the US copyright law, I can only find the first form with a single year (year of first publication). The other forms are based on what I encountered in various projects. Just a range would be a special case of the last form I showed where all years are consecutive. Feb 23 at 13:29
  • There are two questions here - I'm not sure if the OP is asking both or just the former. The first question is which dates should be referenced in a copyright notice. The second is what is the appropriate format for the copyright notice. In terms of the former, your answer seems to say that you should include each year where significant changes are made, but not years where no significant changes are made. That is interesting, but I still think it needs backing-up by some references.
    – HappyDog
    Feb 23 at 15:48
  • 1
    Also, if there are no ramifications for including a year when not much coding happened, then Y1 - YN seems like the safe option, assuming that is an acceptable way of representing it. I would probably do that rather than having to cherry-pick the interesting years, which seems like more work with no advantage (...and potentially a risk, if the omission of years is seen as somehow significant to a legal argument).
    – HappyDog
    Feb 23 at 15:51
  • @HappyDog, I am not sure what you mean with "cherry-pick the interesting years". If it is an interesting year or not should at the latest be known at the end of the year and as soon as you know it is interesting you can add/update the copyright notice. Mentioning a year too many or too few probably does not have significant consequences, as the copyright does not expire until 70 years after the authors death anyway. Feb 26 at 7:58

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