I'm currently developing an editor that will implement syntax highlighter for a rather specialized language. I had already found a vim highlighting file that I rather liked the style of, and while I can't use code from it directly - since my project is in Qt/C++ - I would like to use the syntax structure/design they used (i.e. the groupings of what gets highlighted how).

If I'm simply using the design of their code, rather than any actual code itself, do I credit them in my syntax highlighting code? If so, how would I do that? My gut says that I do, but I thought I should ask here because I'm an rather new to all this.

The code I would like to base from is licensed under an MIT license, and my project uses GPLv3.

1 Answer 1


If you are just reusing design ideas, you do not have the legal obligation to give credit (but morally, you should still give credit in a manner that you deem appropriate) and you do not have to follow the license terms.

If you are translating parts of the actual code, then you are creating a derivative work and you have to follow the license terms, that is keep the MIT license notice in your code (this doesn't prevent you to license your software under GPL v3).

  • How can you keep the MIT license notice (which says that you don't have to reproduce the source code) yet also license it under GPL v3 (which requires that you do)?
    – Brandin
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 16:50
  • @Brandin The most restrictive of the two licenses applies. Actually reproducing the MIT license notice doesn't mean that it still applies. If you fear that this is unclear, you may add a preamble "This is the original license notice kept as required, but this software is distributed under the terms of GPL v3."
    – Zimm i48
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 21:14
  • 1
    @Brandin the MIT licence does not say that you don't have to "reproduce the source code" (if it did, it would be incompatible with the GPL); it merely doesn't say that you do have to. Thus you can obey the GPL and the MIT licence at the same time, by reproducing the source code and honouring the other obligations of the GPL, and so the MIT licence is compatible with the GPL.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 12:01

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