During the early phases of a (team) project on GitHub, I had copy-pasted the Apache Software Foundation's license header into our code as opposed to the usual License header. I hadn't realized for quite some time (as I, like most people, tune-out license headers) that the header I had pasted contained the following:

Licensed to the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) under one or more contributor license agreements. [...]

(emphasis mine).

Now, if this had been a small (solo) project I would have just changed this to the correct one without letting anyone know. However, the project in question has about 100 stars on GitHub and a handful of forks, though most of these seem to be "archive"-forks and hence don't contain any extra commits (the ones which do contain work are those of the team members). This incorrect header has been in place for several months now, with nobody having noticed.

What are my options? I doubt the Apache team cares about owning our code, so would my best bet be to just change the license headers throughout the repo's history, and then try to get people to update their forks (is this part even necessary)?

  • 1
    Did anyone rely on this statement when contributing to your code? For example did someone contribute code to your project only because you made that statement?
    – Brandin
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 4:30

1 Answer 1


I'm not a lawyer, but I don't find this mistake alarming at all.

In the worst possible case, that such a statement really did license the work to the ASF, the ASF probably wouldn't ever exercise that right anyway.

But that worst case likely isn't true: you don't specify the terms of the CLA, so it's unclear what's allowed and disallowed. Also, no such signed CLA document exists in actual fact, and the ASF knows this, so they probably would not try to exercise this erroneous grant purely out of legal prudence if nothing else.

Possibly you could be liable, somehow, for making false statements, but I don't know under what statute or who would have an interest or standing to sue you. Since there doesn't appear to be any harm from this error, such a lawsuit would be practically pointless if not legally baseless.

From the other direction, since you failed to include the APLv2 header, some users (or potential users) may be concerned that your project isn't actually properly licensed under the APLv2. By correcting this error, you can permanently alleviate those fears. (Since you know (I assume) that you don't actually plan to litigate against any of your software's users, you can be sure this isn't a concern in practice, though your users don't know that for sure until you correct the license headers.)

Certainly, try to correct your error as well as possible, but I would not lose sleep over it.

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