Seed projects, in my understanding, are commonly meant to help quick-start an application development by taking away the boilerplate, redundant work, and maybe provide an initial architectural direction to go forward from. Thus, most of the original code is meant to be modified and changed, probably drastically over time.

I've ran across a few of these with the MIT license. I understand this basically means you can do whatever, but you don't own the original work and the author is not responsible for whatever happen. I have a concern about this line:

"The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software."

At which point is it "OK" to not have this, given that the file(s) are modified drastically? Most of the projects only have this in the "LICENSE" file, are we free to change the LICENSE file? If so, how do we maintain credit for the original work?


1 Answer 1


I'd certainly keep some kind of reasonably detailed revision history with the source, thereby permanently crediting the original work. As for license legality, copyright notices, etc, that can always become a can of worms. If you just do whatever it is you want, and nobody challenges you, then what you did is "okay". But if somebody sues you for infringement, files an injunction, or whatever, then the courts will decide whatever they decide, for whatever reasons cross their minds, based on whatever precedents, pro and con arguments, etc, are presented to them at the time, etc, etc. Nobody can tell you for sure, but a high-priced copyright attorney can probably study your situation in detail, and then draft a better guess than any advice (including mine) you're likely to get here for free.

So unless lots of money is on the table, just behave reasonably and reasonably ethically, erring on the side of the original authors when you're in doubt and when it doesn't really, really make that much difference. In fact, email the original authors, point them to your fork, explain exactly what you're planning to do, and ask if that's okay with them.

For example, when I gpl'ed http://www.forkosh.com/gifsave89.html that's exactly what I did. Lines 24-27 of the listing (click the listing link under "Related Pages" on the above page) say,

  24:  * Purpose:   o gifsave89 generates gif images in memory.
  25:  *              It's based on the original gifsave
  26:  *              by Sverre H. Huseby,
  27:  *                http://shh.thathost.com/pub-unix/#gifsave

which he'd licensed without any restrictions at all, and which I separately copyrighted under my name with the US Copyright Office, and released under the more restrictive gpl. But I emailed Sverre first, and he said, "Fine, go ahead." Most gpl-type people will be fine with anything in the gpl ballpark.

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