MIT license can be used for "software and associated documentation files".

But a few big open source projects licensed under MIT (for example, dotnetcore, reactjs), explicitly use Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 for documentation.

Is there any particular reason to license docs with CC BY 4.0 rather than MIT?

1 Answer 1


Is there any particular reason to license docs with CC BY 4.0 rather than MIT?

The MIT license was originally designed primarily for software code (and its related documentation).

The CC licenses family was originally designed for content such as books, music, etc.

Because of this history, it happens that some projects use two different licenses: one for the code and one for the documentation using the most appropriate license for each "content type".


I think that using different licenses for code and doc is an unfortunate trend that was likely started by the FSF and their Free Documentation Licenses (vs. their A/L/GPL "code" licenses).

Note that at a high level, the MIT and CC BY are somewhat similar (but CC licenses are more complex with some non trivial terms) making this mostly moot. IMHO, it also is misguided and overkill in the vast majority of the cases and just makes it harder for users of such package: you now have to deal with multiple licensing terms depending on the usage context.

Therefore I think that there is no good reason to do such thing: in most recent cases this is a side effect of large company, usually late open source contributors (such as MSFT and Facebook that you referenced in your question) and their lawyers being too involved and caring too much about accurate vs. practical FLOSS licensing terms.


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    I could see the point of combining permissive code + copyleft docs. And some software licenses use terms that are unclear when applied to non-software works (e.g. what does it mean to dynamically link a book?). But as you explain, MIT + CC-BY seems rather pointless and confusing.
    – amon
    Oct 17, 2017 at 10:43

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