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I made an open-source blog theme(template) based on Hugo's static web page generator.

This is my first step to the open-source world. So I didn't know much about license things. I copied and pasted an MIT license from an other Hugo theme. I didn't notice that there was a column with the owner's name in the MIT license.

After a month, I found that there is a column with the owner's name in the MIT license. So I changed it to my name. Now, I have a problem: The Hugo theme's owner that I copied the license from, come to my GitHub repository and insisted that I have to keep his name on the LICENSE.MD file in my project.

I thought that this is none-sense, because I made this project from scratch. I worked really hard to make this project. I don't want any other person listed on LICENSE.MD file.

I don't know what I should do. Please help.

Actually, I referenced some code from his project. I referenced the way of loading the library. No more than that. Something like this.

{{ printf "script defer src=\"%s\" integrity=\"%s\" crossorigin=\"anonymous\" title=\"katex\"></script" $js.katex.url $js.katex.sri | safeHTML }}

I think this is the way of doing something in Hugo. I can edit this part very easily. But the person keeps insisting that I should keep his name in my LICENSE.MD file, and does not point out to me anything about a copied code.

I just removed all the code that I referenced from that person's Hugo theme now.

  • 1
    "I made this project from scratch" and "I used a static web page generator" are pretty much mutually exclusive. Either you used a generator and modified that or you started with nothing and truly made something 'from scratch'. – Brandin Dec 2 at 6:52
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I made an open-source blog theme(template) based on Hugo's static web page generator.

That's pretty much the beginning and the end of the analysis, right there. Your work is a derivative of Hugo's generator, by your own admission.

I just removed all the code that I referenced from that person's Hugo theme now.

This brings you up against what is known as the paradox of the Ship of Theseus. You can search here for more information, but my opinion is that a completely-refactored work is still a derivative, unless special care is taken, which in your case it was not. This means both you and the original author have a copyright interest in your code. That given, your obligations under the MIT licence are that:

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

It doesn't say "derivatives", which is interesting, but it also doesn't say "verbatim copies", so I see a strong argument that derivatives are copies. If they are, then the licence requires that you preserve the original copyright notice, and failure to do so means you're committing copyright infringement. The penalties for that vary by jurisdiction.

I think the safest and most appropriate thing to do is to preserve the original author's copyright notice, while adding your own, eg

Copyright (c) 2016-2019 George Cushen
Copyright (c) 2019-present Z Zossig

You have not decided to relicense your code, so reproducing the licence text is easy, as you will be including it in your code anyway.

I notice that in the linked github issue the original author requests that you use a particular markup language (TOML) to acknowledge the original author and licence. You are not obliged to do so, and doing so will not free you from the licence obligation to preserve the original copyright notice, so whether or not you honour that request is entirely up to you.

  • Thanks for the answer. But I have a question. You mentioned that > I think the safest and most appropriate thing to do is to preserve the original author's copyright notice, while adding your own, eg< Is this an obligation? Or some organization or person can force me to do so? Or do I have a moral responsibility to do so? – zzossig Dec 1 at 13:51
  • I just to want to know what happens If I refuse to specify his name in the license file. – zzossig Dec 1 at 14:38
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    @zzossig, nobody knows what will happen, but what can happen is that the original author requests github to take your code down for violating his copyrights. In an absolutely worst case scenario, this could go to court and the judge decides that you have to pay damages. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Dec 1 at 17:52
  • @zzossig I have tried to clarify that. – MadHatter supports Monica Dec 1 at 21:19
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    I know, it's hard to stomach. But it really looks like you took someones work in order to create your own, and if it's copying the readme. Thus your work is a derivative and the original author(s) deserve(s) recognition. If you didn't need the original work to get started: why did you copy from it some files in the first place (even if only docs)? Also, it's no sign of weakness to concede that you use their theme to get started and make a completely independent one. – planetmaker Dec 2 at 14:54

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