I am working on a project and started from some GitHub repository, licensed under the MIT license.

The preamble is the following:

MIT License

Copyright (c) 2018

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy...

Namely, there is no copyright holder name.
Once I publish my code, derived from the MIT licensed one, what are my obligations?

  • I believe I have to include the full text of the MIT license. Is this correct?
  • Can I add my name as copyright holder? Or do I have to replicate the license as is?
up vote 2 down vote accepted

You must not change or falsify a copyright notice. So you can't just add your name here. However, if you modify the software in accordance to the license so that you have part of the copyright of the software, you may add a separate copyright notice like "Copyright 2018 Tom" above it.

Ideally, a copyright notice always names the copyright holder. This is important ~70 years from now to determine when the copyright expires. Without the name of the copyright holder this might be an anonymous work, which is still protected by copyright. This does not affect the validity of the license, and you can use it as normal. As the license explains, you must keep a copy of the copyright notice and the license in all versions of this software, even if you modify the code, even if you license your modifications differently.

You may want to contact the holder of the repository where you found that code to ask them to clarify this copyright notice. Probably, they themselves are the copyright holder. If they don't want to give their real name, it is fine if they use a pseudonym such as their GitHub user name. You would usually use open a GitHub issue for this, but you may also find their email address in the commits (you must clone the repository for this, as GitHub does not display the email address in their web interface).

  • I am a bit confused by your first paragraph. You say "you can't just add your name here", and then "you may add a separate copyright notice like "Copyright 2018 Tom" above it". I intend to modify the code in accordance with the license. So should I just add my name, i.e "Copyright 2018 Tom" or do I do this: "Copyright 2018 Tom (\n) Copyright 2018"(which is my understanding of your "add a separate copyright notice (...) above it") ? – Tom Nov 30 at 15:49
  • 2
    @Tom exactly, you may add another line but should not change or remove any existing copyright lines. – amon Nov 30 at 15:52
  • ok clear, many thanks. – Tom Nov 30 at 15:52

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