Under which license is the license text of the MIT license itself distributed?

If I make a new license based on the MIT license (a derivative work) and call it differently, am I allowed to do that?

  • 4
    In general I recommend to not 'invent' new licenses or change existing ones. There are so many OSS licenses available and many of them are well understood by the developers, so that you can pick one which has the features you need. Creating a new license will likely have the effect that your code will be ignored and not re-used by other developers due to the strange-license-risk. As you can see here, license copyright and license license are unknown: opensource.org/licenses/MIT . Sep 15, 2021 at 6:21

1 Answer 1


The MIT/ Expat/ X11 license is not an explicitly named license, unlike the Apache License 2.0 or the Mozilla Public License 2.0 or the GNU General Public License. It may have been originated by MIT, but it was never explicitly called the "MIT license" by MIT.

You may modify and use the MIT license text without calling it by any name, and without using the name of any organization or person that you do not officially represent.

And what about explicitly named licenses?

The principle stated in section 10.3 below may apply to other explicitly named licenses, if it is explicitly allowed by the license text or some other official statement by the license steward, for e.g. the FAQ.

Also, please see this answer on Law SE.

From the MPL2:

10.1. New Versions

Mozilla Foundation is the license steward. Except as provided in Section 10.3, no one other than the license steward has the right to modify or publish new versions of this License. Each version will be given a distinguishing version number.

10.3. Modified Versions

If you create software not governed by this License, and you want to create a new license for such software, you may create and use a modified version of this License if you rename the license and remove any references to the name of the license steward (except to note that such modified license differs from this License).

Also from the MPL2 FAQ:

Q21: Does the MPL 2.0 give me permission to make my own license by changing the MPL?

Yes but, as with MPL 1.1, we strongly discourage you from doing so. It will almost certainly make your software much less popular and less widely used. Software developers and companies are already aware of and understand popular licenses like the MPL. If you create your own, they will have to perform a legal assessment of your changes - and may conclude it's not worth the effort to do so. Or, you may accidentally make your software incompatible with the Free Software Definition or the Open Source Definition, or with the other commonly-used free software licenses that MPL 2.0 is compatible with.

If you like the MPL 2.0, just use it as-is - it is a clear, modern, internationalized, generic license. There is nothing Mozilla-specific, or specific to a particular country or project, in its licensing terms.

For more information on the problems that creating your own license causes, see the Wikipedia article on license proliferation.

Also from the Apache License 2.0 FAQ:


You may re-use our license unchanged, and also modify it.

If you modify it, you are on your own from a legal point of view, and the result is NOT the Apache License, just a new license inspired by ours.

This means that the terms 'Apache License', 'Apache', and any similar references to the ASF cannot appear in your modified license, other than to state that it differs from the original.

Also, you cannot use 'Apache' in the name of the modified license. Names like "Apache License with such-and-such clause", for example, are not acceptable, as they cause confusion.

Creating a new license is a non-trivial task. If you do that we recommend that you get your own legal advice.

Also from the GPL FAQ:

Can I modify the GPL and make a modified license?

It is possible to make modified versions of the GPL, but it tends to have practical consequences.

You can legally use the GPL terms (possibly modified) in another license provided that you call your license by another name and do not include the GPL preamble, and provided you modify the instructions-for-use at the end enough to make it clearly different in wording and not mention GNU (though the actual procedure you describe may be similar).

If you want to use our preamble in a modified license, please write to [email protected] for permission. For this purpose we would want to check the actual license requirements to see if we approve of them.

Although we will not raise legal objections to your making a modified license in this way, we hope you will think twice and not do it. Such a modified license is almost certainly incompatible with the GNU GPL, and that incompatibility blocks useful combinations of modules. The mere proliferation of different free software licenses is a burden in and of itself.

Rather than modifying the GPL, please use the exception mechanism offered by GPL version 3.

  • 1
    "The principle stated in section 10.3 below applies to all explicitly named licenses" I'm sorry, but do you have any support for that idea?
    – MadHatter
    Nov 1, 2022 at 15:08
  • @MadHatter I'm mistaken according to this answer on Law SE. I'll fix my answer.
    – ruben2020
    Nov 1, 2022 at 15:20

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