The CC-BY 4.0 license is 1,958 words.

As I understand it, the MIT license is functionally equivalent to CC-BY: it established that you can do whatever with the published work, as long as you give credit.

But the MIT license is just 162 words, most of which are in the disclaimer. The ISC license, which should be functionally equivalent to the MIT license, is even shorter: just 111 words.

Why is the CC-BY so much longer than the MIT or ISC license, even though it offers the same conditions? Or this question could also be reversed: why are the MIT/ISC licenses so short compared to the CC-BY license?

  • 2
    In my world, a custom drafted licensing agreement typically runs about 2500 to 9000 words. A 1,958 word licensing agreement is honestly pretty economical. A license of 162 words or less is so short that it terrifies me as a lawyer. I'd feel challenged to identify the parties and put in a signature block with that few words. Hell, it is hard to write a transmittal letter that short. The reverse question that you suggest is more on target. – ohwilleke Jan 7 '17 at 21:09

You have a false premise: "it offers the same conditions", and "MIT license is functionally equivalent to CC-BY". These premises are not true.


  • applies to more than just software; it applies to artistic or literary work, databases, other material
  • disclaims endorsement
  • explicitly withholds moral rights
  • explicitly does not license patent rights (MIT license gives anyone who obtains a copy of the software the right to use it, a patent right)
  • prescribes the acceptable forms of attribution

Those are just some of the differences.

  • I think a large part of it is just the nature of the licenses. The MIT/ISC licenses were kind of intended to be short, and they kind of offer a lot of protections through omission, or really concise language. CC actually goes to create definitions of every term, address moral rights, sui generis rights, termination, survival clauses... and so on – Zizouz212 Jan 7 '17 at 19:28

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