I'm using an open source library to develop an application. The library is under the Apache 2.0 license.

The license says you need to put a copy of the license and of the copyright into the software the library is going into.

In the library I cannot find the copyright, what should I do? The library I'm using is BlueSocket which is on GitHub.

  • 1
    Just about every file in that project contains "Copyright © 2016 IBM." What's the problem here? Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 7:11
  • The person who posted the repository in question seems to have just copied the boilerplate license and did not customise it. To apply the Apache License to your work, attach the following boilerplate notice, with the fields enclosed by brackets "{}" replaced with your own identifying information. (Don't include the brackets!)". File a bug and ask him to properly license the work. Without replacing the "{}", the work is still automatically copyrighted, but it is not yet properly licensed under the Apache license, so you cannot use it under the Apache license's terms.
    – Brandin
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 10:01
  • @Brandin All the code files I've looked at do follow the format specified in the Apache 2 license with copyright inofrmation correctly supplied ("Copyright © 2016 IBM"). e.g., Socket.h, Socket.swift, SicketProtocols.swift. Where else do you expect the licensing information other than within the files being licensed?
    – apsillers
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 14:03
  • @apsillers I had checked only the bottom of the license file where it wasn’t filed out, I didn’t think that that it would be in the actual code.
    – Matthew
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 14:04
  • 1
    That said, I think this is a great question (what do you do when there is no copyright information to preserve?) but one that doesn't really apply to the specific project you pointed to.
    – apsillers
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 14:10

1 Answer 1


The project has no clear license file

If the project does not have a file that clearly spells out under which terms the project can be used, then you must assume that the default copyright protection applies. This means that only the author of the code is allowed to make copies, make changes or do anything useful with the code. In short, you can't use it.

If the code is in a public repository and there are statements from the owner of the repository indicating that the code is intended to be open-source, you can inform the owner that the license and/or copyright status is unclear and that it can't be considered open-source until that has been resolved.

The project does have a clear license, but no clear copyright information

This situation is somewhat unusual, but it can happen.

First of all, the license file typically does not contain copyright information. The license itself wasn't written by the author of the code (I would hope), so he can't put his copyright on it, and for all the major licenses it is accepted practice that they are used without a copyright statement of the license author.

If, at first glance, there is no copyright statement in sight, I would first double-check all the files in the repository, starting with the source files and excluding the files that appear to be third-party dependencies that were copied. Source files are the most likely files to contain a copyright statement.

If there really is no copyright statement in any of the files (excluding third-party dependencies), then it is time to file a bug report against the repository asking the owner to clear up the copyright status.

In the mean time, if the repository has a public record of the changes that were made (or the pull requests that were merged), you can assume that the copyright is shared between all the persons that have contributed to the project. If the project has more than a handful contributors and you need the information just for a proper acknowledgement in your project, I doubt that anyone has a problem with an acknowledgement in the form of "the contributors of ".

  • "The license itself wasn't written by the author of the code (I would hope)" -- though Emacs and the GPL have the same author :) -- but I joke. Good answer! I thought about providing a breakdown of how different license texts handle a missing copyright notice (does it only require preservation of an existing notice, or does the missing notice make it impossible to fulfill a requirement for distribution?) but after reading your answer, I agree this is a serious enough (and rare enough) issue that caution and a bug report is the best way to go.
    – apsillers
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 18:56

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