What Is an MIT License?: A Quick and Simple Guide

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Jun 11, 2019

Jun 11, 2019 • by Rebecca Smith

The best developers want to share their code with the world.

Do this most effectively by licensing your code with an MIT license.

The MIT license is easily the most popular open source license available, and there are many variations in use.

Keep reading to learn how to license your code and start sharing it with other developers.

What is an MIT License?

The MIT License is a short, permissive license. It is one of many open source licenses recognized by the Open Source Initiative (OSI).

It gives users broad copying and distribution rights within proprietary software on the condition that the license is distributed with that software or source. There are many variations in use today.

Understanding the MIT License can be confusing, as it’s referred to by many different names. You may have also seen the names X11 License, Expat License, MIT X License.

What Can You Do With an MIT License?

The MIT License allows end users to copy, modify, merge, and distribute original software or source code. This can be done for commercial or private purposes.

End users are also allowed to incorporate the source into work with a more restrictive license. This is called sublicensing. Sublicensing is a popular way of seeking additional revenues from the use of the source code.

Many companies have chosen to move their products to MIT licenses because of the ease of modifying, distributing, and sublicensing work. Other licenses, such as the react license, aren't considered open enough for open source work.

In order to use the MIT License, you must include the copyright notice in all variations and substantial uses of work. You are also required to include the license in the same way.

What Can’t You Do With an MIT License?

Similarly, you’re probably wondering what you’re not able to do with an MIT license.

The MIT License is perhaps more notable because of what it does NOT contain. It does not contain clauses for advertising. It also doesn’t prohibit the use of the copyright owner’s name for promotional uses.

Use the MIT License

If you create code, you want to share it with others, not just show it.

To apply the MIT License to your work, you first need to obtain a copy of the license text.

You will create a new text file in the root of your source code and insert the text of the license.

If you are copying the text from another source, be sure to change the year to the current year. You will also need to replace the names of the copyright holders.

If possible, you will also have the option of adding the MIT License to the project package description. This will make the license display along with your project in the appropriate directories.

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