I wrote an open source software (BSD-licensed) for my company, developed during business days and hours. The copyright belongs to my company.

Now for some reason my company is no longer interested in maintaining the software. I would like to fork it, and start contributing on it on my spare time, with new code having my own copyright. Eventually, I would like to reach a point where all the original code has been replaced with new code.

Question: when all the original code has been replaced, can I drop my company's copyright notice? I know that this would be permitted with a rewrite from scratch, but what about an incremental rewrite?

  • 1
    If you put your new code in new files with your copyright, as you delete old unused files, the previous copyright will no longer be in place and you won't be removing any existing copyright - only removing unused files. That is if it really is necessary to remove the company copyright. Could you offer to purchase the copyright from them?
    – sambler
    Dec 21, 2017 at 8:15
  • Look for the phrase "clean room" in this site and elsewhere. What you're suggesting, an "incremental rewrite" sounds like it is likely to result in 'contamination' (bits of code which are derived from the old code), so it would still be a potential copyright hazard.
    – Brandin
    Dec 21, 2017 at 20:00
  • 1
    If the existing software is already open-source and BSD licensed, why do you need to bother with trying to rewrite it? Just fork it and start maintaining it under the terms of the BSD license, which is very permissive. Why do you need to "drop the copyright notice"?
    – Brandin
    Dec 21, 2017 at 20:05
  • @Brandin: no specific reason, I just want to get rid of my former company name from my precious project
    – jack
    Apr 11, 2018 at 6:18


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