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Question:Question: What is the Open Source Community's Take the MIT License?

nshapiro asked on September 02, 2016 11:15
628 | 4 answers | shortlink

What I want to do or know

Is the MIT Open License fundamentally different than CC licences that do not claim to be copyrights? Is it essentially the same as Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License?

Background story

I'm working with a collaborator who is trying to get their open licences in order and one of their collaborators at MIT was interested in using the MIT license and I wanted to see if there would be any reasons for encouraging them to use a CC license before that license is applied at the end of September.

open-source license



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4 Answers

Thanks, Chris! This is very very helpful.

I might add some of this information to the licenses wiki to clarify just how these processes work. Thanks again!


The MIT license is a permissive open source license, and is not copyleft -- meaning that, unlike the GPL or CC-BY-SA (sharealike), derivative works needn't follow the same license. It's not "infectious" -- to use the negative term.

In this respect it's more like CC-BY -- attribution only. Free and open source licenses can be divided into two broad categories based on whether they're copyleft or not, and there's a pretty big cultural difference between the two.

Copyleft licenses tend to make a kind of moral claim that people who benefit should "pitch in" and add to the work in an open way -- these are generally favored by the "free software" movement. Permissive licenses are hands-off, and more associated with the "open source" movement, some of whom see it as more "business friendly". A brief history (at a cultural level) can be found in this article, one of my favorites:


In a nutshell, permissive open source licenses mean someone can take what's been committed to the commons and build a closed branch off of it. This kind of license, which includes the MIT license, means someone can come along and make improvements to your open source design, and NOT share them back to the commons. This includes not sharing them back to you!

I'm guessing you're working on some hardware. Have you read the Cern OHL?

This article has some helpful talking points about how applying licenses alone won't guarantee a thriving / collaborative project, and points out how cultural norms can be more a more successful way to span national (legal) borders: http://lu.is/blog/2016/09/26/public-licenses-and-data-so-what-to-do-instead/

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