Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. It's 100% free.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a project I've been working on which I would like to push into a new, public Github repository as open source. After searching on StackExchange for the right license to use I've settled on the BSD license.

My question is: now what? Do I just need to copy the BSD license text into a file called LICENSE in the root of my repository and call it good? Is that the general rule for how all open source licenses work? Or do I need to notify some other organization that I'm using this license so I can 'enforce' it if necessary?

share|improve this question
This question contains potentially useful similar license information. (Particularly the accepted answer)… – John Dec 19 '10 at 3:49
@John - "shurely some mistook". The question you linked to is about terms of service, not software licenses. – Stephen C Dec 19 '10 at 7:03
@Stephen: The accepted answer is still useful here no? – John Dec 19 '10 at 17:39
@John - useful, but not relevant to this question. I could "usefully" tell him about alternatives to github, or that open source is the "spawn of the devil", or that he should brush his teeth every morning. But I don't ... because it is irrelevant to the question asked. – Stephen C Dec 19 '10 at 22:23
@gnat: No, this question is about how to apply the license once you have made a choice already. – Martijn Pieters Apr 14 '13 at 9:30
up vote 6 down vote accepted

It is sufficient to attach the licence file in your work. However it is normally preferable to add a small comment stating who owns the copyright and where to find the full licence text at the top of each source file.

You do not need to notify any organisation to enforce your licence if someone breaks the terms, although it will require you to take them to court.

share|improve this answer

If you have decided on a particular license suits your needs, then putting a License.txt file in a prominent place in the distro should be sufficient. Also, you should make sure that the github metadata for your project, Maven POM files and so on also declare the licensing in the appropriate way.

Or do I need to notify some other organization that I'm using this license so I can 'enforce' it if necessary?

It is not necessary. Enforcement of the license is entirely your responsibility. (Not that there is a lot to enforce .... with a BSD license.)

However, if you were prepared to use a GNU license and assign copyright to the FSF (and your project is worth protecting), they would take care of enforcement of the license.

share|improve this answer
On the other hand, that way you would lose your copyright, and if you ever decided to use your own software that you worked hard for in a proprietary way, you would be shafted. Once you sign over your copyright, it can be enforced against you as well. – gnasher729 Jul 12 '15 at 12:37
That is true. If you have ambitions for using your code in a proprietary way, you should be spending a lot more time investigating the implications of the various choices you have on releasing and licensing code and enforcing your IP rights. – Stephen C Jul 13 '15 at 11:18

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.