I'm very soon going to submit my master's thesis, which consists of a manuscript and code. I plan to publish the code with an MIT license on a public GitHub repository. Because the manuscript also serves as conceptual, scientific and technical documentation to the code (a long whitepaper of sorts, if you will), I would like to add the manuscript to the GitHub repository. However, I'm concerned that doing so would effectively publish my manuscript under the MIT license as well, as that makes explicit mention of (emphasis mine):

[...] this software and associated documentation files [...]

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I feel like publishing the manuscript under the MIT license would not be desirable - I don't think you'd want "copying, merging, publishing, distributing, sublicensing and/or selling copies of" a scientific document "without restriction". (Not that I think my manuscript is so extraordinary that anyone would try to sell it.)

Are my concerns about the manuscript being included in the MIT license unfounded, one way or the other? If not, what would be the right approach in this case? Should I add an explicit exemption for the manuscript to the license, or should I include an additional license just for the manuscript, and if so, which one? Thank you for your time.


I am not an academic. If you want an answer from an academic's point of view, you should ask over at our sister site Academia.

From a licensing viewpoint, there is nothing wrong with having your manuscript under the MIT license, especially if it is a good description of the design and/or behaviour of the software.

If someone forks your repository to make improvements to the code (like adding new features), it would be a shame if they can't keep the documentation that comes with it up to date.

And the MIT license does require that all license and copyright statements are kept intact, so it is not like someone can take your work and pass it off as completely their own.

On the other hand, the MIT license does not specifically cater for the academic practice of citations. How that works out in practice is something the people over at Academia should be able to tell you. And your university might also have rules about under which terms a thesis should be published, which may conflict with the MIT license.

  • Thank you very much for your answer. I will sort this out with my university first and then ask over at Academia if there are still open questions.
    – Adrian
    Apr 3 at 12:30

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