Copyrighting code

I have finally written some code that I think could be distributed, and would like to put a copyright notice on it.

I want the user to be able to copy, use and amend the code, and I’m not looking for financial compensation. All I really want is to require them to give me my props (credit) when they use this code.

I’ve seen some examples like “copyright 2001-2007 Apple, Inc.” It seems like you only can copyright for a certain length of time. What is the length, and how do you renew, or can you?

Also, would I actually have to create a license just to let people use the code? (say like an open source license or a wiki commons license)?


FIrst of all, I am not a lawyer. Any advice I give is not a official legal advice.

If you are exploring copyright, you really should invest some time learning about it. Read about its history, what it is and what is is not. Maybe try to talk to an “IP” lawyer about copyright in general and your situation in particular.

If you are in the U.S.A., see what the U.S. Copyright Office has to say (especially their Frequently Asked Questions about Copyright). Also, you might read reference material like the Copyright entry from Wikipedia.

Year ranges like that do not denote the temporal extent of the claimed copyright. Typically such a range is there to show the year in which a work was created and any subsequent years in which it was modified. The copyright above probably indicates that Apple, Inc. first created the work (as work-for-hire by someone working for Apple) in 2001 and that Apple, Inc. has subsequently updated it every year after that up to and including 2007 (or possibly just that it was created in 2001 and the latest update was in 2007, but that is usually written “© 2001, 2007” (comma, not hyphen)).

For works in the U.S.A., see How Long Does Copyright Protection Last? (from the U.S. Copyright Office FAQ).

You can often adopt a pre-written license (or license template) instead of drafting a license from scratch. Since your intended use sounds rather like “open source”, you could check The Open Source Initiative license list for a reusable license that fits your needs. For instance, you might like the MIT License or the Artistic License, but you should really try to review as many of them as possible (including ones not in the OSI list) before you decide to use one.

I am not sure what you mean by “wiki commons license” (one of the licenses acceptable by the Wikimedia Commons?), but content licenses may not be a great fit for software. For example, the Creative Commons recommends against using CC licenses for software.