copyright-update(1) Update Copyright information in files


copyright-update [options] FILE [FILE ...]
copyright-update [options] --recursive PATH [PATH ...]


Update the copyright information in set of files, possibly recursively, matching content criteria. The updating affects copyright year, GPL address information etc.

The line must have word ``Copyright'', a space, three characters '(C)' (or a U+00A9 UTF copyright sign), a space, and the range of years. Varying amount of spaces and tabs are permitted, but there must be no spaces around the dash-character in YEAR-YEAR. Examples:

            A whitespace, or multiple, required
            |   |           No space between years
            |   |           |
   Copyright (C)        YYYY-YYYY
   Copyright: (C)       YYYY-YYYY
            A colon is optional

By default certain files and paths are always ignored; like version control directories, backups files, object files and binary files according to Perl's "-T" file test. Run program with option --help-exclude to see exclude path list.


Run options

-a, --auto
In automatic mode, the author's name is read from environment variable NAME and only lines matching 'Copyright.*$NAME' are affected. If NAME is not set, read information from EMAIL.

If neither NAME nor EMAIL exists in evenvironemt, or if their values are not in a recognizable formats (see section ENVIRONMENT), this options does nothing.

This option effectively tries to preset value for the --line option.

-c, --code
Preset --include to match common code files: .c, .h, .cc, .hh, .cpp, .c++, .hpp, .C, .pl, .py, .sh and .rb
-d, --debug LEVEL
Turn on debug. Level can be in range 0-10.
-f, --fsf-address
Change License paragraphs that refer to FSF address. The FSF's current recommendation is to redirect inquiries about licences to their URL.

Effectively replace paragraphs:

  You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
  along with this program; if not, write to the Free Software
  Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place, Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307 USA
  You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
  along with this package; if not, write to the Free Software
  Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301USA

With this:

  You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
  along with this program. If not, see <>.
-i, --include REGEXP
Include files matching regexp. The match is done against whole path.

If this option is not supplied, every file is automatically included. The matches can be further filtered by using option --exclude.

This option can be used multiple times. See also option --code.

-l, --line REGEXP
Change only lines which match REGEXP. The match is case-insensitive.
-r, --recursive
Recursively search all directories given in command line.
-R, --regexp REGEXP
Change only files whose content matches REGEXP. The file is read in as a one big string so that it's possible to match using Perl regular expressions across the whole file. An example: '(?smi)This.*multi.*line.*match'. See perlre(1) for more information about 'smi' and other modifiers.

This option can be used as a preliminary Content criteria, to select files before --line option finds the correct Copyright lines.

-t, --test, --dry-run
Run in test mode. Show what would happen. No files are changed.
-v, --verbose LEVEL
Print informational messages. Increase numeric LEVEL for more verbosity.
-x, --exclude REGEXP
Ignore files matching regexp. The match is done against whole path. The option can be used multiple times.

This option is applied after possible --include matches.

-y, --year YEAR
Update files using YEAR. Value must be four digits.

The default operation is to use currect year, so this option is not necessary in normal use. Use case: you plan to take a long holiday before year's end and want to update the next year's value beforehand.

-Y, --no-year
Disable updating year.

Miscellaneus options

-h, --help
Display help.
Display default values used to exclude paths and files.
Display help in HTML format.
Display help in manual page man(1) format.
-V, --version
Display contact and version information.


The primary use is to update files to reflect current year; option --year is implicit:

   copyright-update *

To test what would happen:

   copyright-update --verbose 1 --test *

Update only C-code file:

   copyright-update --verbose 1 --include '\.[ch]$' --recursive .

It is possible to restrict updating files recursively to only those files whose content match regexp. Here, the lines affected are those that match --line regular expression.

   copyright-update \
        --regexp  '(?i)Author:.*John.*Doe' \
        --line    '\bFoo\b' \
        --ignore  '\.(bak|bup|[~#]])$' \
        --verbose 1 \
        --year    2013 \
        --test \
        --recursive \


See option --debug.


In the form ``[email protected]''; that is, without the angles <>. If set, the value is used in option --auto only if environment variable NAME is not set.

In order to find first and lastname, the localpart in email address must match case insensitive regexp '^[a-z-]+\.[a-z-]+@':

    [email protected]            Not used, not in form First.Last
    +------ +----------
    [email protected]  Not used, likewise
    +---------------- +----------
    |                 |
    Localpart         Domain part
In the form ``Firstname Lastname''. If set, the value is used in option --auto.




Not defined.


Uses only standard Perl modules.


The Copyright stanzas searched with option --fsf-address must be exactly like in the FSF recommendation in order for them to be noticed. See STANDARDS.


"How to use GNU licenses for your own software"

"Information for maintainers of GNU software (6.5 Copyright Notices)"

"Information for maintainers of GNU software (6.6 License Notices)"


Homepage is at


Jari Aalto


Copyright (C) 2000-2013 Jari Aalto

This program is free software; you can redistribute and/or modify program under the terms of GNU General Public license either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version. For more information, see see <>.