Everything You Need to Know About the MIT License – A Software License
Created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the MIT License is well known for being an excellent software license, so much so that when you look at the statistics of 2019, you can see that it was the most popular option. If you’re unsure of what license to use, you may be wondering why.
One of the reasons that so many people chose to use MIT is simply because it’s one of the most permissive and easy to use software licenses available. As long as you add a copy of the original license and a copyright notice in the software you use, you’re essentially free to do whatever you want.
Whether you’re interested in using it for your own code or you have software that has an MIT license, it can be crucial that you take the time to learn more about what it covers.
MIT License - What does it permit a user to do?
Both developers and users will need to know what an individual will be able to do with the licensed software from the perspective of protecting code, as well as understanding what is legally permissible for the creator and the consumer. Here are the main things that MIT allows:
Both private and commercial use of the software
The ability to freely redistribute and share
Change and modify the original work
Sublicensing (meaning that a user can add a more restrictive license to protect their creation)
One of the key reasons why it’s such a great option for many people is because it offers so much freedom to its users – and while not all developers are keen to give people the opportunity to do all this with the software they’ve created, it is worth noting that there are some rules that individuals will need to adhere to.
MIT License - Restrictions and Requirements
When it comes to licenses, there are a few things that any developer should aim to have in order to protect themselves and their software – and this is why looking at what’s not allowed can sometimes be just as important as what is. This is especially the case for anyone hoping to use the software, as it’s imperative to have an understanding of what they cannot do (since they could risk getting into legal issues otherwise).
There’s only actually one restriction – the author of the software cannot be held liable for any issues with the software if a person distributes it “as is”. This offers a creator protection if an issue is to arise from someone else’s tampering and modifications, as well as keeping the base of your software safe. To further protect you, distributors must include the copyright notice and the license notice in all copies of the software they share, even if they edit it.
While these things are huge benefits for many developers, the fact that these are the only restrictions and requirements in place is certainly something that appeals to many people. As long as there’s nothing wrong with the code you share and you provide the copyright and license, you’ll have nothing to worry about – which is especially good since you can do essentially anything you please with the software, too.
MIT License - Why is it such a commonly used software license?
As mentioned earlier, the stats show that it was the most popular copyright license used last year. If you take a look at the numbers from 2019, you’ll see that MIT was at the top of the list of most popular used licenses with 27%. While Apache (the runners-up) did come quite close, most of the other options were either around or below the 10% mark. Not only that, but it also claimed the top spot the previous year too – and many people think that 2020 will be no different in terms of which one will be number 1.
You should also consider the fact that it has been trending on GitHub for around 5 years now, which certainly has a hand in helping more people to notice this excellent option and attracting more usage among developers, no matter their skill level.
The main thing to keep in mind is that MIT is simple to understand and offers the protection and credit that an author needs. It provides clear and to the point information to users on what they can and cannot do, as well as providing them with plenty of freedom. Overall, it’s a license that’s optimized for developers while offering a wide variety of benefits to the downstream users, which as a whole makes it appealing to everyone.
It’s used by a wide variety of creators, including brands and businesses whose software you use yourself; a good example of this is Facebook. A couple of years ago the social network replaced the contentious React license which they were using previously with an MIT, which they have had ever since.
MIT License - Is it the best of all the open source licenses?
While it has been at the top for quite a while, it’s important to remember that there are a variety of different open source licenses options out there, and as a developer you may find that there’s another type that could be even more suitable for your needs. It might be worth taking a closer look at Apache-2.0, as they have been steadily increasing in popularity over the years. There are many more available to you though, so if you’re unsure, it’s often best to do a little research on some of the other licenses before making a choice.
Some of the features that are important to take into consideration include:
Private use and/or commercial use
The permission, requirements, and rules of the latest version
If you take a step back and go over the features of MIT, you can’t overlook the key advantages. It’s great for developers, simple, and usable for downstream users – and has been one of the most successful options for a range of customers for quite a while now.