Re: The GPL: No shelter for the Linux kernel?

From: Linus Torvalds
Date: Sun Sep 24 2006 - 12:35:15 EST

On Sun, 24 Sep 2006, Jan Engelhardt wrote:
> Would every file that does not contain an explicit license (this
> excludes MODULE_LICENSE) falls under COPYING?

Basically, yes. There's nothing to really say that you need to state your
copyright license in every individual file, especially if those files are
only ever distributed as a whole, together with other things (which souce
code obviously is - you generally cannot even use an individual *.c file
without the infrastructure it was written for).

If a file doesn't have a license mentioned, it doesn't mean that it's
"free for all" or not copyrighted, it just means that you need to find out
what the license is some other way (and if you can't find out, you
shouldn't be copying that file ;)

Of course, for clarity, a lot of projects end up adding at least a minimal
copyright header license everywhere, just to cover their *sses. It's not
required, but maybe it avoids some confusion, especially if that file is
later copied into some other project with other basic rules (but if you
do that, you really _should_ have added the information at that point!).

Me personally, I prefer to not see huge boiler-plate licenses at the top
of the file, so that every time I open a new file I just see the dang
license that has nothing to do with why I'm opening it. So I tend to do a
fairly minimal thing ("Copyright (C) Linus Torvalds 2006" or similar) but
sometimes I drop even that (ie I personally feel silly adding a copyright
message to a header file, so I usually don't - and sometimes I just
forget about it in real source files too)..

Others are more anal^H^H^H^Hcareful, and tend to add a few lines to tell
what the license is, the ubiqutous "all rights reserved" (which is just
idiocy), and a blinking gif advertisement for their company. Oh, and the
"no warranty" clause. And an aphorism or two.

In other words, I don't think there are any real rules. Different people
and different projects have more or less different rules. If you expect to
collect treble damages in the US, you might want to add a copyright notice
just about everywhere, "just in case", and to "show you really care".

IANAL, of course.

To unsubscribe from this list: send the line "unsubscribe linux-kernel" in
the body of a message to majordomo@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
More majordomo info at
Please read the FAQ at