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I'm using the WTFPL in my personal projects published on GitHub.

Currently I'm using it verbatim, but I have the suspicion I shouldn't be leaving

Copyright (C) 2004 Sam Hocevar <sam@hocevar.net> 

in there, and instead should use my name.

But the license is very confusing about this. Half of the WTFPL is about the WTFPL itself, so I thought that copyright might refer to a copyright on the license text itself, and not on the project this is licensing. Also, it says

Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim or modified copies of this license document, and changing it is allowed as long as the name is changed.

So would I have to change the name, from WTFPL to, say, "WTFPL-Domenic"?

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4 Answers

up vote -1 down vote accepted

I think Ishmaeel's answer put me on the right track, by citing the WTFPL FAQ page.

The correct form for a WTFPL v2 LICENSE.txt is

Copyright © 2014 Domenic Denicola <domenic@domenicdenicola.com>
This work is free. You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the
terms of the Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License, Version 2,
as published by Sam Hocevar:

        DO WHAT THE FUCK YOU WANT TO PUBLIC LICENSE 
                    Version 2, December 2004 

 Copyright (C) 2004 Sam Hocevar <sam@hocevar.net> 

 Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim or modified 
 copies of this license document, and changing it is allowed as long 
 as the name is changed. 

            DO WHAT THE FUCK YOU WANT TO PUBLIC LICENSE 
   TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR COPYING, DISTRIBUTION AND MODIFICATION 

  0. You just DO WHAT THE FUCK YOU WANT TO.

As explained in the FAQ, this includes a copyright block at the top for the work, which then references the full, unmodified, original text of the WTFPL, included directly below.

The WTFPL itself includes a copyright line for itself, which must not be modified, as doing so would imply claiming copyright for the text of the WTFPL.


You can also just leave the copyright block for the work out. Several WTFPL-using projects seem to do this, often by distributing a COPYING file that is simply the verbatim text of the WTFPL:


I still think this is rather confusing, because this kind of practice does not appear in any other LICENSE.txt's I've seen around the internet. All MIT or BSD-licensed projects only seem to include a copyright block for the work, and not for the MIT or BSD license itself. (Indeed, I see no indication of who wrote those licenses.) Examples: 1, 2, 3, 4.

One attempt to address this seems to have been the WTFPL v3. I appreciate the spirit of that, although the guidance there around separate COPYING.txt vs. LICENSE.txt files didn't exactly help clarify the situation.

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Yes, by the terms of that copyright, you must change the name of the project / code that you are now providing.

You may feel free to acknowledge Sam Hocevar's contribution, but you may no longer attribute anything to him per the terms of the WTFPL.

OTOH, you'll never get sued over it, so slap your copyright statement on there after Sam's and move on. WTFPL is essentially saying "this is completely free, do whatever you want" which negates any actual claim to copyright.

If you release your work under WTFPL, then you can get rid of all of the copyright statements. By that licensing agreement, you're giving up all rights to it.

Us old folk would just call it "public domain" and be done with it.


To be a bit more clear, part 1.

Where you currently have:

Copyright (C) 2004 Sam Hocevar

you need to put:

Copyright (C) 2014 Domenic < domenic@your.email.addr >

note: Use your name or github alias in there and provide a valid email address

Part 2:

You do not need to rename the WTFPL to anything else; you only need to change

  • The year
  • Your name (don't use Sam's)
  • Your email address (again, don't use Sam's)
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"public domain" only has meaning in commonwealth countries ;). Thus the WTFPL. –  Domenic May 17 '12 at 17:42
    
@Domenic: My understanding is that "public domain" does have meaning in the US, which is not a commonwealth country. –  Keith Thompson Feb 7 at 20:01
    
I don't want only US people to use my software. –  Domenic Feb 7 at 21:15
    
This seems to directly contradict Ishmaeel's answer. –  Domenic Feb 9 at 18:32
    
@Domenic - licenses don't have copyright assigned to them. Ishmaeel is correct in that you do not need to rename the WTFPL license, which is what my answer says as well. –  GlenH7 Feb 9 at 18:48
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Short answer: No, you do not need to rename the license to use it.

Wall of text: As described in the FAQ page:

  • The copyright notice, as you said, applies only to the license document itself. You cannot put your own name in there and still call it WTFPL.

  • On the other hand, you are allowed to modify the license document as long as you change the license name, so yes, you can license your work under a custom "WTFPL-Domenic", but that would be inventing your own license.

So, the copyright notice does not mean you're giving all rights to your work to Sam. It just means the license document was written by him.

BTW, you are not obligated to include the license document with your work, if you think it might cause confusion for your licensees. You can simply put one-liner notices in your code like this (with or without the URL):

// This code is released under WTFPL Version 2 (http://www.wtfpl.net/)

Or you could get wordier, if that appears not-legal-enough for you:

Copyright © 2000 Your Name <your@address>
This work is free. You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the
terms of the Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License, Version 2,
as published by Sam Hocevar. See http://www.wtfpl.net/ for more details.

(Note that your own copyright notice goes into the first line.)

Another option (includes a no-warranty clause):

/* This program is free software. It comes without any warranty, to
 * the extent permitted by applicable law. You can redistribute it
 * and/or modify it under the terms of the Do What The Fuck You Want
 * To Public License, Version 2, as published by Sam Hocevar. See
 * http://www.wtfpl.net/ for more details. */
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What I find weird about this is that it contravenes common practice for other licenses like MIT or BSD. See e.g. github.com/gruntjs/grunt/blob/master/LICENSE-MIT#L1 and github.com/npm/npm-install-checks/blob/master/LICENSE#L1 –  Domenic Feb 7 at 18:58
    
Well, those licenses do not seem to have copyright notices attached to their text (does not mean they are not copyrighted themselves) I'd say just refer to the license as shown in the FAQ page (instead of pasting it verbatim into your code) and you'll be fine. –  Ishmaeel Feb 7 at 19:16
    
It's convention to include a LICENSE or LICENSE.txt file with the package in my circles. –  Domenic Feb 7 at 21:16
    
Yes, and the first recommendation in the WTFPL site is exactly that. He just calls the file "COPYING" instead of "LICENSE". –  Ishmaeel Feb 9 at 18:18
    
I would feel more comfortable with this answer if there were some example packages that use this style, e.g. one of the ones referenced by "Every major Linux distribution (Debian, Fedora, Arch, Gentoo, etc.) ships software licensed under the WTFPL, version 1 or 2" –  Domenic Feb 9 at 18:27
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You can put your name there.

Sam Hocevar would say "do the fuck you want. isn't it clear enough?"

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