I'm curious why some documents (both written on paper and source code) sometimes literally say something like "Copyright 2018 Bill Gates" for example.

This question occured to me because I just came across a project on Github where the source code

License: <http://opensource.org/licenses/MIT>
Copyright (c) 2017 Metaspook.

Isn't it a clear contradiction to be using an open source license and then say it's copyrighted?

1 Answer 1


Absolutely not. Any Open Source code is copyrighted. If there was no copyright owner, then there would be nobody who could publish the code under an Open Source license and enforce that license.

So don't think for one second there is no copyright. If you take Open Source code and use it in a way that infringes the license, the copyright holder can and often will sue you for copyright infringement.

In this case, Metaspook has given you permission to use the code in accordance with the MIT license. If you use it in violation of the license, Metaspook can sue you. In the USA, for up to $150,000 in statutory damages, and to the amount of unlimited damages. And consider this: My company pays some significant amount of money for permission to use someone's Open Source code without following the license. If you used one of these packages in the same way but without paying, you would be up for some significant damages.

  • You answer part of the question. What is the point of something like "Copyright 2018 Bill Gates" when 1) things are automatically copyrighted when they are created 2) as you point out, if there exists a license this imply someone owns the rights to it.
    – user20887
    Sep 17, 2018 at 9:45

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