Code "borrowed" without attribution to original authors

Wolfgang Denk wd at
Thu Oct 7 04:08:10 EDT 2010

Dear Uwe,

In message <20101007073842.GP29673 at> you wrote:
> I really wonder why you care about the commit log.  I would care more
> about the copyright statements in the code.  (Nevertheless I consider it
> correct and fair to attribute in the commit log where the code is taken
> from.)

The introduction of the Signed-off-by: system to the Linux kernel has
been a significant improvement to make the origin of each and every
line of code clear, independent of the copyright statements which
quite often only list the original authors, even if the current file
does not contain much of the original code any more.

I think it i quite instructive to re-read the "12) Sign your work"
section of the Linux kernel's "SubmittingPatches" document. I think
our situation is best covered by the notes to back-porters there:

|  Special note to back-porters: It seems to be a common and useful practise
|  to insert an indication of the origin of a patch at the top of the commit
|  message (just after the subject line) to facilitate tracking. For instance,
|  here's what we see in 2.6-stable :
|      Date:   Tue May 13 19:10:30 2008 +0000
|          SCSI: libiscsi regression in 2.6.25: fix nop timer handling
|          commit 4cf1043593db6a337f10e006c23c69e5fc93e722 upstream
|  And here's what appears in 2.4 :
|      Date:   Tue May 13 22:12:27 2008 +0200
|          wireless, airo: waitbusy() won't delay
|          [backport of 2.6 commit b7acbdfbd1f277c1eb23f344f899cfa4cd0bf36a]
|  Whatever the format, this information provides a valuable help to people
|  tracking your trees, and to people trying to trouble-shoot bugs in your
|  tree.

Note that this is not only a topic from the point of code
attribution, but also from the point of bug tracking and quality
insurance.  I consider it a good thing in general.  I definitely
want to have this in U-Boot myself.

> I don't know if you want to make it easier for people to get the
> annotations right/better when copying from U-Boot or not.  But if you
> do, you could change your standard copyright header to include the
> project's name.  Something like:

Hm... we could do that, of course. But what exactly would it help or
change?  This is not done in Linux, either...

> I don't speak for barebox in general or Sascha or Pengutronix or
> Jean-Christophe, but I think you cannot expect this to happen never ever
> again.  I think the best you can achieve here is that the barebox
> contributers get more aware of these issues and try to get it done
> better in the future.

Nobody is perfect.  I am well aware of that, including my own
deficiencies and that of the U-Boot project.

> (Note, there is no offence intended in the whole mail.)

None taken.


Wolfgang Denk

DENX Software Engineering GmbH,     MD: Wolfgang Denk & Detlev Zundel
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