I am confused by copyright licenses. Specifically whether or not I am permitted to use derived code from W3Schools in my production code base.

To give a bit of context I have a contract to build a website. The particulars of the website don't really matter, except for the fact that I was searching for code that I could hack to develop a vertical drop down navigation pane. I came across a wonderful example on W3Schools that did what I wanted.

However, before I copied the code I started to do some research to make sure I wasn't violating copyright laws. According to the W3Schools copyright statement,

All pages and graphics on this website are the property of the company Refsnes Data. Pages, code or other content from W3Schools may not be redistributed or reproduced in any way, shape, or form without the written permission of Refsnes Data. Failure to do so is a violation of copyright laws.

More specifically, later on, they state that copying for profitable or commercial use is not a favorable use.

So that seems pretty clear, that I can't use this code without written permission from Refsnes Data.

However here is where I am confused - as I reviewed the source code for the HTML in question I noticed their CSS File and browsed it.

On the third line down they attribute around 25 lines or so to another developer project "Normalize.css by Nicolas Gallagher and Jonathan Neal"

Reading the MIT license for the project tells me that in order for W3Schools to make use of this code in the CSS file they must release their code with the same license and include the license statement (which they didn't do).

My questions are:

  1. Is W3Schools in violation of the MIT License as they do not include a reference to the license in their code?
  2. Am I allowed to use the W3Schools CSS file as it is a derivative of the Normalize.css and therefore automatically licensed the same way?
  3. Am I allowed to use the W3Schools HTML file as it is an implementation of a derivative?
  4. Am I overthinking this?
  • Stephen's answer is right. What you may be getting confused with is a copyleft license, such as the GPL. If Normalize.css was licensed under the GPL, then the answers to your questions would likely be Yes, No, No, No. Q2&3 because just because someone licenses something incorrectly, it doesn't give you the right to change how they licensed it (they could still sue you and it would all come down to interpretation)
    – Tim Malone
    Apr 28, 2016 at 9:11

3 Answers 3


The MIT license is a permissive license, which allows you to do anything you like with the licensed code, including using it in a proprietary code-base. Derivative code isn't automatically MIT-licensed.

The only requirement is

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

W3Schools are complying with this by including the normalize.css copyright notice. Their own work isn't reusable as you discovered yourself; all that you're allowed to do is reuse normalize.css as provided originally (and not W3Schools' derivative).

So the answers to your questions are

  1. No.
  2. No.
  3. No.
  4. Yes.

Like Andrew, I also wanted to use w3schools CSS file in my commercial website and was stuck at the copyright statement.

However, on w3.css download page (https://www.w3schools.com/w3css/w3css_downloads.asp) they state that:

W3.CSS is free to use. No license is necessary.

To use W3.CSS, just add a link to "w3.css" in your web pages:

Or download w3.css and run it from your own web site:

This sounds like a clear permission to use the code, also for commercial websites.


They published their css on github under a MIT License in 2018.

They mention the repo here.

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