Asking since some people on Stack Overflow recommended this is a more appropriate area.

If someone scrapes the commit history of a repository, does this data have a license? Or does the repository license apply to every aspect?

For those not familiar with how open source projects work:

A repository is the main project with some license applied to it.

When a developer changes some code, they can submit their code, and if approved it will be added.

A commit is a small change of the codebase thats submitted.

The question here is if a company scrapes the timestamps of the commits, does the license of the codebase apply to this data?

  • What are they doing with the history? Which licence? Jan 9, 2016 at 11:03

4 Answers 4


IANAL but in the absence of any explicit exemptions, the license applies to everything you are making available.

For an infringement to matter enough to be actionable, though, the infringer has to copy a substantial portion of the work.

Most of us don't create commit histories with any value outside of the context of the source code they relate to, but if you have a collection of commit message haiku poems you would like to assert intellectual property rights to, maybe it's not impossible to imagine a situation where this would matter.


To make sure that we talk about the same thing: If I use a source code control system (for example a git repository), and I add a changed version of a work to that source code control system, then it is a good idea to write some information about the changes that I made, so that people know what the difference between say version A and B is, and why the changes were made, and so on.

The collection of all this information for one source code control system is given different names, in the documentation of the "git" source code control system, it is called the "commit history".

Clearly the commit history is a work that falls under copyright protection. It is not derived from the original work. If there is no license attached to it, then there is no license and copyright law applies - others are not allowed to copy it.

  • 1
    fundamentally disagree. if a work is open-source, then the metadata about the work is open source too.
    – dwoz
    Jan 10, 2016 at 18:36
  • I'd like to know which version you're rebasing your opinion on.
    – dwoz
    Jan 13, 2016 at 0:24

what we're discussing here is META-DATA about the code in the repository. If a work in a repository is classified and licenced as "open source," then the public acts of contributing to the open source are also themselves, "open source."

  • Says who? Show me where in the GPL for example metadata is mentioned.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 11, 2016 at 21:23

This answer assumes you only care about the timestamps. Additionally, I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

I do not believe the timestamps carry any copyright. Thus there is no need to follow the license. The reason for this is, facts cannot be copyrighted. However, their presentation may be copyrighted. So if the timestamps are presented in a unique way that presentation may be copyrightable, but the fact a commit was made at a certain time is not copyrightable. If you make your own presentation of these facts, you are most likely not bound by the license.

  • Commit history is more than time stamps. Commit history should contain a description by the developer what changes have been made and why.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 11, 2016 at 21:24
  • @gnasher729 the poster specifically stated: "The question here is if a company scrapes the timestamps of the commits, does the license of the codebase apply to this data?" I answered that question.
    – Viktor
    Jan 11, 2016 at 21:32

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