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Let's say I want to initiate publication of some source code under an open-source license like Apache or MIT, but I know that I'm only the Creator of the source code in its initial form, and I'm unlikely to be the one who maintains it long term. I just want to get it out there and make sure it's free for others to use per one of these licenses.

What do I need to do as far as copyright statement? Do I need to put my name or company down in order for the open-source license to apply? Is there a way that source code can be published anonymously, or without a designated "owner"?

Alternatively, if I put my name or company down, can this ownership be reassigned later?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com May 23 '11 at 21:35

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2  
Have you considered the terms of the WTFPL license? sam.zoy.org/wtfpl –  Claus Broch May 23 '11 at 14:40
    
Cute. :-) Alas, rejected for various reasons including lack of seriousness. –  Jason S May 23 '11 at 14:41
    
Note that many open-source projects have multiple "owners". E.g. there are literally over a thousand people who own a copyright on Linux. So don't worry about becoming a copyright owner, that won't exclude others. –  MSalters May 24 '11 at 12:07
    
@JasonS. Code under the WTFPL has found its way into a number of major projects. –  TRiG Jul 22 '12 at 6:12

4 Answers 4

There is no requirement that a copyright holder be designated anymore in pretty much any major country. It is entirely sufficient to put: "All code is copyrighted by its author(s)" (which it is whether you say that or not) or even to put no notice whatsoever.

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If you want to keep the option of changing the license at a later time, having all copyright assigned to you is very helpful.

The FSF uses this to switch projects from GPL v2 to GPL v3, you could add open source exceptions to the GPL, could switch to the Apache License 3 at some point in the future or some such.

Just having a bunch of people all releasing code under the same license (or compatible licenses) works too, but then a change of license requires approval by all copyright-holders.

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What do I need to do as far as copyright statement?

Just write a standard copyright statement. Copyright (c) Robin S, Licensed under MIT, see LICENSE.

Do I need to put my name or company down in order for the open-source license to apply?

As for the Apache or MIT license I think both require actually a copyright statement.

Is there a way that source code can be published anonymously, or without a designated "owner"?

I don't think they require that the statement must be correct, they only require one to exists so that other who want to develop further can make use of the code under the license (which is what you aim for).

E.g. instead of your name you can enter some other name if you want to stay anonymous and as you wrote you have no other plans with the software, so you don't actually reveal your identity.

And next to that there is the possibility to release something under a name chosen by one's own, but I think that's not what you're looking for.

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Is there a way that source code can be published anonymously, or without a designated "owner"?

Of course it can be published anonymously. But then you may find enforcing the open source license (if any) difficult.

Source code without an owner is called "public domain". But public domain only exists in some jurisdictions, so in others you would still be the owner (I guess). So that doesn't achieve what you want.

Alternatively, if I put my name or company down, can this ownership be reassigned later?

Yes, copyright assignment is a completely standard procedure. Hundreds of people (including me) have reassigned the copyright in their contributions to particular GNU projects to the Free Software Foundation, for example.

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1  
Source code without an owner is called "public domain". - I think that sentence is worth to get some comment. Public domain is only available in the US and I think it only means that everybody owns it - but not naming the copyright owner of a source code does not mean it's available under public domain. Just saying so, the decisions you built upon that reflect this already. +1 on the answer btw. –  hakre May 28 '11 at 19:24

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