I saw repository on GitHub where someone had LICENSE file as below:

Copyright year name

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License"); you may not use this file except in compliance with the License. You may obtain a copy of the License at http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0

Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or implied. See the License for the specific language governing permissions and limitations under the License.

I have read that Apache2.0 license must be copied into LICENSE file, and then the NOTICE file will contain exactly that what I showed above.

If the license was invalid at first time, then can someone say "your code at some moment wasn't licensed, so I created repo with your code and added copyright on my name"? And if license was fixed, then does still someone could do it, because "law is not retroactive"? If yes, what this poor man should do to have copyrights?

  • In what way was it invalid? If you forgot the "Copyright" line, for example, then that doesn't matter. It's still copyrighted automatically whether you add that line or not. See: law.stackexchange.com/questions/74704/…
    – Brandin
    Jun 27 at 10:45
  • Technically Apache requires a "copyright notice" for identifying the "Work" which is intended as the Apache-licensed work, but we can see this more of a technical requirement of the text in the Apache license itself.
    – Brandin
    Jun 27 at 10:50

1 Answer 1


It doesn't work like that!

If the code is not properly licensed, you can not acquire a license for it. If you don't have a license, you can not use it. Usage without a license is copyright infringement and not allowed: the copyright is with the author, and only the author may make derivates or copies or allow them to be made by licensing it.

You do not gain copyright by fixing a licensing error - in fact, you commit copyright infringement if you do not have a license, and providing wrong copyright management information is illegal under 17 USC 1202

  • I'm that poor man :|. Thanks you, I can sleep calm!
    – Szyszka947
    Jun 20 at 17:30
  • Yes this is true except for one caveat - on GitHub, at least - whenever you agree to be a member and to publish code there, one of the things you agree to in the Terms of Service is to let GitHub and other GitHib users to use (or "fork") your public code within their platform (regardless of the license that you mention explicitly, if any).
    – Brandin
    Jun 27 at 10:38
  • 1
    @Brandin technically wrong: You do not grant them the ability to claim copyright - Removing copyright information or claiming copyright on something you have no copyright on is copyright infringement and not covered by the fork-license (which is enforceable)
    – Trish
    Jun 27 at 11:32
  • Well, if there was no copyright information in the original version, then "forking" that version which has no information is technically allowed by GitHub. Of course, now I'm stuck -- definitely I don't have permission to put my own notice on that fork or add my own different license on that forked code.
    – Brandin
    Jun 27 at 11:43
  • 1
    @Brandin Adding wrong copyright information is also copyright infringement of a different kind. law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/1202
    – Trish
    Jun 27 at 14:05

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