I have a project (code) that I am wanting to license as MIT. It has a few dependencies, mostly assets (icons and images). Some dependencies are MIT and I include their licenses in the source, but a few are CC BY-SA. If they are ShareAlike, does that mean my project that uses them has to be CC BY-SA as well? Do I have to give up the MIT license?

  • Does your project have to use these particular CC-BY-SA assets, or could someone who uses your project possibly use some other assets instead?
    – Brandin
    Oct 8, 2018 at 5:31
  • @Brandin What do you mean? I could change dependencies and not use this set of assets and make my own or find a different licensed set, but I would prefer to be able to use these ones.
    – notme1560
    Oct 8, 2018 at 5:32
  • When you copy some piece of work (such as assets, a library, etc.) and those require CC-BY-SA style attribution, then you must abide by that requirement. You can place any license on your code, but anyone who uses your code and also includes those assets will need to abide by the same requirements. That is, maybe you don't require attribution for your code in the same manner as CC-BY-SA does, but if someone copies the assets from you, and those assets require CC-BY-SA style attribution, then everyone who uses your project must also abide by the same license requirements for those assets.
    – Brandin
    Oct 8, 2018 at 5:35
  • @Brandin So I can include the assets, maybe in a sub directory, and then have their license in there and in my license make sure to give proper attribution to the assets?
    – notme1560
    Oct 8, 2018 at 5:39

1 Answer 1


CC-BY-SA 4.0 requires that

if You Share Adapted Material You produce, the following conditions also apply ... the Adapter’s License You apply must be a Creative Commons license with the same License Elements, this version or later, or a BY-SA Compatible License.

and says that

Adapted Material means material subject to Copyright and Similar Rights that is derived from or based upon the Licensed Material and in which the Licensed Material is translated, altered, arranged, transformed, or otherwise modified in a manner requiring permission under the Copyright and Similar Rights held by the Licensor.

IANAL/IANYL, but as I read it, this says that anything that copyright law regards as a derivative must also be licensed under CC-BY-SA (or a compatible licence, which the MIT licence is not).

What constitutes a derivative work is a contested issue, but one broadly-supported approach is that things that share complex, custom structure are parts of the same work. So any of your code that links into the CC-BY-SA assets, or anything that uses its internal formats, is arguably part of the CC-BY-SA work, and will need to be CC-BY-SA also.

All the rest of your contributions can likely be under MIT, or any other licence that you choose.

You don't tell us what the CC-BY-SA assets in question are, or how you are using them, so it is difficult to be more precise than this.

  • Thanks, I see. The assets are icons and sprites that were going to be used in UIs, but I guess I’ll find different assets to use then since I prefer MIT to the CC-BY-SA licensing
    – notme1560
    Oct 8, 2018 at 6:28
  • Licensing of graphical assets is not in any way my field of expertise. I do not know whether a larger graphical environment is likely to be considered to be a derivative work of pre-existing assets included therein. Now you've clarified what you intend, it may be that someone with more pertinent expertise than mine can give more specific guidance.
    – MadHatter
    Oct 8, 2018 at 7:03
  • 1
    @notme1560 Maybe you could release the icons separately as an "icon pack" or something and your software would then use any icon pack (even though others would not exist) and thus would not depend on the CC-BY-SA licensed icon pack (so you could release it with MIT).
    – skywalker
    Nov 9, 2022 at 13:23

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