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I have spent a lot of time examining the various (major) software licenses and ultimately have decided upon using the MIT Licenses for my open source projects, and the Microsoft Reference License (MS-RSL) for my proprietary projects.

Not knowing much about IP law, I have three simple questions that I haven't been able to find answers to:

  • At the top of each source file that I want to protect, I need to place a copy of the appropriate license (MIT/MS-RSL), yes?
  • If so, then in this license notice, do I have to acknowledge that I am using the MIT or MS-RSL licenses? Or is it fine to just copy-n-paste the licenses in, as-is? In other words, do I need to say: SOFTWARE LICENSE NOTICE - MIT LICENSE or can I just write SOFTWARE LICENSE NOTICE?
  • Is it "okay" (legally enforceable) to just place a link to a URL (where an EULA lives) instead of pasting in the same software license over and over again, at the top of every single source file? It would be nice to just have this:


    // This software and associated files is licensed. Please visit:


    // for full details.

That way, could always contain the latest license I want the source file(s) to be protected by. So if I switch from MIT to, say, APL, no code changes/rollouts are necessary. Is this legally-sound? Thanks in advance!

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"So if I switch from MIT to, say, APL, no code changes/rollouts are necessary. Is this legally-sound?" I don't know about legally, but it makes your code simply unusable - what happens if I started to use your code in a MIT codebase, and you change that pointer to something that isn't compatible with it in my context? Can't trust your license -> can't use your code. – Mat Jul 28 '12 at 14:32
Good point - but the only other alternative (that I can see) is to copy-n-paste the same dry license text into each source file. This kind of goes against all laws of I stuck with this as my only option or is there some happy middle-ground? – herpylderp Jul 28 '12 at 15:05
The more verbosity there is, the clearer the intention becomes, the harder it becomes for lawyers to argument against. It's complicated to figure out what actually is needed. – johannes Jul 28 '12 at 15:06
I see someone has downvoted this question. Is this not a topic relating to a professional programming problem? I like my idea of placing a URL in lieu of a license notice! I'm wondering what the community thinks about it. Please justify the downvote! If this question is off-topic, explain why! If I agree with you I'll happily delete the question myself! – herpylderp Jul 28 '12 at 16:05
up vote 1 down vote accepted

You should either

  • include a copy of the complete license in the source file (this is easy with short licenses like BSD or MIT), or
  • if the license is too long for inclusion, distribute a copy of the complete license together with your source files and link to it from your source files. See here for how to do this with the GPL.
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