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Let's say I start with code that is (c) 2014 Struvious Featherstone and licensed according to the BSD 3-clause license.

Now I make some changes for my employer Zippety Duda, Inc. and I want to publish them, with my employer's permission. What does the resulting license have to look like? Is it still required to say (c) 2014 Struvious Featherstone? Or does Zippety Duda Inc. replace that? Or does the code now have to contain both?

And how can I determine this by looking at the BSD license terms?

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Removing somebody else's copyright notices is usually a big no-no.

The first condition of the BSD 3-clause license:

  1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.

"(c) 2014 Struvious Featherstone" is the "above copyright notice" in your case.

It's also a normal practice to add your own copyright notice by the existing one, but this is not a license obligation. It does however make it very clear that your modifications are also released under the terms of the BSD 3-clause license. If you add your own copyright notice, somebody who modifies the software that you have modified would then need to keep your notice as well as the original one.

  • Or add your own copyright notice above. So it'd simply say "Copyright 2016 Jason S, Zippity Duda, Inc.; Copyright 2014 Struvious Featherstone" – Glenn Randers-Pehrson Sep 30 '16 at 11:55
  • Especially with source code this is however complicated, since you might change existing lines of code. Lets say you change them all, is there still the previous notice, or does it then disappear? Or does the notice refer to implemented concept? How does one list a modification like "added a parameter to a call of a function" ? – Zelphir Kaltstahl Oct 13 '17 at 13:09
  • The notice refers to the software as a whole. If you change the software somehow, you have made a modification. It usually doesn't matter if your change constitues additions, modifications, or removals. Adding a parameter to an existing function is no less a modification than adding a new function. The notice does certainly not disappear if you were to modify every single line of code. – Mans Gunnarsson Oct 16 '17 at 14:01

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