20

MIT license says:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

How much is that substantial portion?

For example: is using half of some helper function defined in that software substantial or not?

1
  • MIT defines the word Software's meaning for us in [this software and associated documentation files (the "Software")] paragraph, and obviously MIT paragraph starts with "this software" (not "the Software") and puts the quotes around "Software" alone (meaning, wherever "Software" is mentioned from that point on, their original content was meant) and later MIT asks "substantial portions of the Software" to attribute, but remember that Software is their original work (i.e. if you got binary from them, then you must attribute where ever you use that binary, else just ensure you compile/Uglify)
    – Top-Master
    Jul 25 at 8:26
17

Substantial portion is a legal term. Its exact definition will depend on jurisdiction, be subject to interpretation and possibly including subjective analyses. When in doubt, ask a lawyer. To err on the safe side, assume that it applies to any portion, no matter the size.

To give you a random example, here's what Wikipedia has to say for Canadian copyright law (neither I, nor Wikipedia, are lawyers and cannot give legal advice, obviously):

What is a Substantial Part?

The Copyright Act does not require that an entire work be copied in order to find that a copyright holder’s rights have been infringed. Copying a substantial part of the work will be sufficiently actionable. In determining whether a substantial part of a work has been copied, the court must exclude from consideration any part of the work not properly the subject matter of copyright under s.3 of the Act.[6] The analysis is largely fact-driven, and the courts will consider both qualitative and quantitative matters. Some of the matters that have been considered include:

a) how central was the element taken to the first work?

b) do the selected parts constitute an essential characteristic of the work?

c) would people who see the copy recognize the source?

d) was the part taken used in a manner that would create a substitute to the first work and thereby jeopardize its economic exploitation? [economic damages can be considered]

3
  • As far as a text-file is under MIT License, the smallest yet "substantial portion" is a single line - And your "any portion, no matter the size" suggestion, which can include words or even alphabetic-letters is insane, because (If you were right) then even what I wrote here should attribute whoever used any of these words!
    – Top-Master
    Jul 25 at 8:47
  • MIT defines the word Software's meaning for us in [this software and associated documentation files (the "Software")] paragraph, and obviously MIT paragraph starts with "this software" (not "the Software") and puts the quotes around "Software" alone (meaning, wherever "Software" is mentioned from that point on, their original content was meant) and later MIT asks "substantial portions of the Software" to attribute, but remember that Software is their original work (i.e. if you got binary from them, then you must attribute where ever you use that binary, else just ensure you compile/Uglify)
    – Top-Master
    Jul 25 at 9:15
  • While some jurisdictions may define the default meaning of "The Software"; What is the definition of "this" in jurisdiction? MIT License calls the entire original content "this software" and defines "Software" to mean same as that. And although very short, MIT does undeniably specify what "Software" means, and excludes default jurisdiction meanings (which was the right choice; in many countries, jurisdiction meanings differ)
    – Top-Master
    Jul 26 at 20:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.