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    Next step, realizing that international law doesn’t require copyright notices of any kind…

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      It doesn’t, but having a copyright notice on every file still makes them easier to track for people who casually copy the files and forget about the notices.


        Does any local law for various important places require it?


          They can’t require it without violating treaty obligations. I’ve heard the opinion that it may help in some places, but IANAL and cannot speak to courtroom realities if you’re gonna sue

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        The reason for copyright attribution years is to indicate when your copyright expires. This isn’t something software engineers think about because the field is too young, but copyright is still for a finite duration.

        Also, the last time we spoke about this: https://lobste.rs/s/kgggfe/copyright_without_years

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          How is “Copyright 2020 John Doe” more helpful to figure out the expiration date than “Copyright John Doe”, given that individual copyright expires 50/70/95/100 years after the death of the author?


            It’s not inconceivable that the copyright terms are changed in the future, for example, <publication date> + 30 years. The original Queen Anne legislation was 14 years from publication, plus an extension of another 14 years if the author was still alive.

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            To clarify, are you saying that it still makes sense to add (for example) a latest changed date because that way the lifetime of the copyright is extended?

            And thanks for the link to discussion of the curl article here. The link I posted mentions that article, but I submitted here before I saw that link. Maybe it makes sense to merge the two stories?

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            Ideally, I should have posted this in late December, but I only came across it today.

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              Wait, who is going around updating their copyright years??

              Ignoring anything else: you can’t simply put a new copyright year on your work to extend the period of coverage: the copyright applies to when you published it first at the latest. If January comes around and you slap a new year on your work you’re not doing anything: updating the copyright date only applies to new material, so you can update a copyright header when you make some other change.

              That said given Disney has ensured length of copyright approaches the heat death of the universes I’m not sure there’s real value in that either.

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                The argument goes:

                • The initial copyright date for a software project is the date when it was first written
                • But if the project undergoes any type of ongoing development, such that new code is being added to it, then that new code has a copyright date of whenever the new code was written
                • Therefore the copyright statement should reflect the range of dates involved in the various individual bits of code that make up the project

                So a project begun in 2015 would initially have “Copyright 2015”. Then if more code was added in 2016, it would become “Copyright 2015-2016”. And so on.

                Or at least that’s what I understand the argument to be for why the years need updating.

                The analogy would be a blog that’s kept over multiple years – each individual entry is copyrighted as of its date of authorship, so the blog’s sidebar or footer would display a pair of years in its copyright statement, reflecting the range of dates of copyright of the constituent entries.

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                  I understand updating the year when you make a copyrightable change, but some projects (e.g. FreeBSD) go and update copyright on unmodified files at the start of a year and this completely confused me.


                    Copyright terms are based on death of author and not publication date anyway

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                Very cool! However, Hynek’s site still has a year for the copyright in the footer :p

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                  There’s a footnote that hints at an answer to this (I think):

                  I have a range of years on my homepage for non-content, because the first release dates of the various individual content pieces (i.e. articles, talks, and TILs) actually span those years. This is different from multiple versions of the same thing. Not sure if even that is actually necessary, but my blog engine does it for me.

                  In this bit, he’s talking specifically about the date range on the home page. Individual pages also have dates, but I suspect that’s also because his “blog engine does it for” him.

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                    Every January 1st, an army of open source developers rushes out to update their copyright attributions in licenses and documentation.

                    Now, this same army is going to have nothing to do, except open issues in various GitHub projects about how the copyright years shouldn’t be updated.

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                      So basically this article is Stealing Jobs (tm) :D


                      Maybe I’m the only one, but I’ve tended to use the copyright year as a quick proxy for recent activity, whether in the source or on the project home page. However, thinking back on my browsing habits over the past couple of years, It’s not as useful now that the majority of projects are on github and recent activity is so easy to figure out.