[Python-Dev] Copyright notices in modules

Terry Reedy tjreedy at udel.edu
Wed Jan 21 00:09:23 CET 2009

M.-A. Lemburg wrote:
> On 2009-01-20 00:56, Raymond Hettinger wrote:
>> Why does numbers.py say:
>>    # Copyright 2007 Google, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
>>    # Licensed to PSF under a Contributor Agreement.
> Because that's where that file originated, I guess. This is part
> of what you have to do for things that are licensed to the PSF
> under a contributor agreement:
> http://www.python.org/psf/contrib/contrib-form/
> """
> Contributor shall identify each Contribution by placing the following notice in
> its source code adjacent to Contributor's valid copyright notice: "Licensed to
> PSF under a Contributor Agreement."
> """
>> Weren't there multiple contributors including non-google people?
> The initial contribution was done by Google (Jeffrey Yasskin
> AFAIK) and that's where the above lines originated from.

Thank you for the explanation, here and below, as far as it goes.
But what about the copyrightable and therefore copywrited contributions 
of others?  Does Google (in this case) get an automatic transfer of 
copyright to Google?  A single copyright notice seems to imply that.

In the case of minor edits of the original work, perhaps yes.  When, for 
instance, I send an author notice of a typo or a suggested rephasing of 
a sentence, I consider that a donation to the author.

In the case of new work, added to the file by PSF so that the file 
become a compilation or anthology of the work of several people, I 
should think not.  If there is any copyright notice, then perhaps there 
should be several -- one for each 'major' (new section) contributor and 
one for the PSF for the compilation.  I have occasional seen such things 
in printed works.

>> Does Google want to be associated with code that
>> was submitted with no tests?
> Only Google can comment on this.
>> Do we want this sort of stuff in the code?
> Yes, it is required by the contrib forms.

Then it seems to me that there should/could be a notice for each major 
contributor of independent and separately copyrightable sections.

>> If someone signs a contributor agreement, can we
>> forgo the external copyright comments?
> No. See above. Only the copyright owner can remove such
> notices.
>> Do we want to make a practice of every contributor
>> commenting in the name of the company they were
>> working for at the time (if so, I would have to add
>> the comment to a lot of modules)?
> That depends on the contract a contributor has with the
> company that funded the work. It's quite common for such
> contracts to include a clause stating that all IP generated
> during work time is owned by the employer.
>> Does the copyright concept even apply to an
>> abstract base class (I thought APIs were not
>> subject to copyright, just like database layouts
>> and language definitions)?
> It applies to the written program text. You are probably
> thinking about other IP rights such as patents or designs.

Bottom line to me.  The current notion of copyright does not work too 
well with evolving, loosely collective works (which eventually become 

Terry Jan Reedy

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