I am the owner of an open-source theme for Hugo named hugo-dream-plus which, as the name implies, is an upgraded version of hugo-theme-dream.

Note that hugo-theme-dream is licensed under the MIT license.

I liked this theme and so I forked it and made lots of modifications to it according to my own needs. Once I felt that my fork could stand on its own, I made it public on GitHub and added it to the Hugo Themes listing.

What bothers me now is:

  • Would it legally be okay for me to put my own license on my fork?

    I think it should be because my theme and the parent theme, from which it was initially forked, are different in a lot of ways now.

  • If it isn't okay, then what shall I do to license it under my own name, because I do want the credit for my work.

I'd like to add that I have stated in my repository clearly that my own theme had initially been forked from hugo-theme-dream and I've also credited the developer. The credits to his theme have always been present in the README of my theme repository.

1 Answer 1


The MIT license is very permissive; you are allowed to release your own work under a different license if it was based on something released under the MIT license.

See also this answer on Software Engineering SE and the plain English explanation of the MIT license (link also provided in the linked answer). As indicated in the plain English explanation, you are allowed to sublicense the work:

You may incorporate the work into something that has a more restrictive license.

The only condition of the MIT license is that you include the MIT license text and any copyright notices from the original author.

Any files in your fork that already existed in hugo-theme-dream should have a copyright line with the year of creation and the original author's name. Per MIT terms, you have to leave these in.

Any files that you created yourself after forking and thus are 100% written by you do not need to include any such attribution, since there was no copyright notice in those files to begin with and you wrote them yourself. However, if you copy, move, or otherwise transfer code/text that you didn't write from a file written by the original author, you should also copy over the copyright line (or at least acknowledge that that piece of code/text was written by the original author).

You seem to have already done this, but for the record: since other people might want to use the original work under the MIT license (e.g. if you make your fork available under something more restrictive), it would nice to include a link to the original repository so other people can easily find it.

TL;DR: any copyright lines from the original author need to be left there. You should include a copy of the MIT license in the repository and acknowledge that your work is based on someone else's work, which is available under the MIT license. You can apply your own license to your fork.

  • Thanks for your clear and descriptive answer. Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 7:08
  • My understanding is that because X11 doesn't require changes are stated derivative works do not need to apply the copyright line to individual files. In fact, because comments are code, applying a comment to a source file can affect its runtime behavior and—in some versions of Hugo—break the build entirely. And even if changes did have to be stated, SCM tools do a pretty good job of that themselves.
    – vhs
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 10:20
  • Don't role your own licence though. Use for of the FSF recommended ones. Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 12:37
  • What about Apache 2.0? Could we for example change readme and point to our work on jcentre, maven, etc?
    – Dr.jacky
    Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 16:52

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