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

Currently I'm using the license verbatim, but I have a suspicion that I shouldn't be leaving the third line:

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

in there, and instead should use my name instead of Sam's.

But the license is very confusing about this.

Half of the WTFPL site is about the WTFPL itself, so I thought that copyright statement might refer to a copyright on the license text itself, and not on the project that is using the license.

However, the site also 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 something like "WTFPL-Domenic"?

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4 Answers 4

Whether or not you should change the name of the license depends upon what you've changed and what you're applying the license against.

Short answer: If you are just applying the license to your program, then no you do not need to change the name of the WTFPL. If you are changing the terms or language of the WTFPL then you need to change the name of the WTFPL as well.


Applying the license

To apply the license to your program(s), the WTFPL FAQ lays things out pretty clearly for you.

Step 1. Download or copy/paste the full text of the WTFPL and distribute it with your work. A common file name for the license file is COPYING. If the work features multiple licenses, it is usual to call the file COPYING.WTFPL.

Step 2. Add the following wording to your copyright statements:

    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 the COPYING file for more details.

And as part of Step 2, you need to change:

Copyright © 2000 Your Name <your@address>

to:

Copyright © 2014 Domenic < domenic@your.email.addr > 

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

If you don't want to change anything about the license itself, you're done.

That said, the WTFPL is essentially saying "this is completely free, do whatever you want" which negates any actual claim to copyright. So you could skip Step 2 and just insert the WTFPL text verbatim as per Step 1.


Modifying the license

You don't have to modify the license terms, but you might have your reasons for wanting to do so. For example, perhaps you're a huge Battlestar Galactica fan and you want to change the F to frak in order to make it a bit less vulgar.

In that case, by the terms of that copyright, you must change the name of the license and the copyright it's held under. This is also addressed in the FAQ.

Can’t you change the wording? It’s inappropriate / childish / not corporate-compliant.

The WTFPL lets you relicense the work under any other license.

To be a bit more clear about how you would change the WTFPL itself, let's look at the WTFPL:

WTFPL description from WTFPL site

In sections 1 and 3, you'll need to perform the equivalent of this sed command:

s/FUCK/FRAK/g

Note that this changes the name of the license to DO WHAT THE FRAK YOU WANT TO PUBLIC LICENSE

Technically speaking, you ought to change the version and date in section 1 but you don't necessarily have to since they're kind of meaningless in this context.

And in section 2, you'll need to change:

Copyright (C) 2004 Sam Hocevar

into something like this:

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

You may feel free to add something in your version acknowledging Sam Hocevar's contribution, but you are not required to do so.

It's questionable if you can also refer to your license as the "WTFPL" since the actual name is now "What The Frak Public License" and "WTFPL" is just an abbreviation of the name of the license. Given the spirit that the original WTFPL has been released under, I certainly wouldn't worry about it. Use whatever the frak abbreviation you'd like.

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8  
"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 '14 at 20:01
    
I don't want only US people to use my software. –  Domenic Feb 7 '14 at 21:15
    
This seems to directly contradict Ishmaeel's answer. –  Domenic Feb 9 '14 at 18:32
1  
All text can have copyright assigned to it. It appears Sam has assigned copyright on the text he wrote for the WTFPL v2 to himself. –  Domenic Feb 9 '14 at 19:02

You can put your name there.

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

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[-1] No. Sam Hocevar did not put the text of WTFPL under the terms of WTFPL, so one may not do what the fuck he want to with it. –  Dmitry Alexandrov Dec 22 '14 at 7:39
    
@DmitryAlexandrov: Since you assert that there is a restriction, where would that originate? Copyright on legal works is dubious, especially when the work itself is trivial. The more external constraints there are on a work, the higher the bar for creativity. "Do what you want" just isn't creative prose in a legal contract, it probably is too minor to qualify in any circumstance. –  MSalters Jan 6 at 21:28
    
@MSalters I do not assert that the text of WTFPL is copyrightable (I am not a copyright lawyer to judge), but Sam Hocevar apparently believes that it is (otherwise he would not add a copyright notice). I am only asserting that the answer is incorrect, Sam Hocevar would not say “do the fuck you want” since he actually said the opposite: “changing it is allowed as long as the name is changed”. –  Dmitry Alexandrov Jan 7 at 4:28
    
What makes you so sure that Sam Hocevar is claiming copyright over it? I read the third line as a kind of foobar placeholder. Have to say I'm also unclear on what he means by "the name" - does he mean the "DO WHAT THE FUCK YOU WANT TO PUBLIC LICENSE" title? –  Steve Bennett Jan 12 at 6:21
    
OIC. wtfpl.net/faq How obnoxious. –  Steve Bennett Jan 12 at 6:25

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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1  
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 '14 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 '14 at 19:16
    
It's convention to include a LICENSE or LICENSE.txt file with the package in my circles. –  Domenic Feb 7 '14 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 '14 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 '14 at 18:27
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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