Are there any legal issues with forking an open source project and putting your own name and spin on it? I am talking specifically about projects that are operating under the MIT or Creative Commons licenses.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it belongs on opensource.stackexchange.com Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 5:03
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    "[software] projects that are operating under the MIT or Creative Commons licenses" - Please say which license you mean. MIT is commonly used for software, but Creative Commons is not. And for Creative Commons, there are different versions such as CC-BY-NC and so on. So if you have a question about one of those licenses, you should say which one.
    – Brandin
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 8:21
  • I mean MIT license sorry. Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 10:40
  • Unfortunately we can't migrate this to Open Source where it belongs.
    – feetwet
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 20:01

1 Answer 1


First off, IANAL, so my answer should not be taken directly as legal advice.

Whether or not what you are asking about violates the license is largely dependent on what you mean by 'putting your own name and spin on it'.

In short, based directly on the standard license text (available trivially from the SPDX or OSI web pages for it), you can do pretty much whatever you want with the code from an MIT licensed project, provided that:

  1. You preserve the copyright notice.
  2. You preserve the same licensing terms for any version you redistribute.
  3. You don't hold the original author liable for any problems that the software might cause (that's what the big block of all-caps text at the bottom of the license is about).

That first point is the big one here, because it means that you can't strip copyright notices from you version that were present in the original version. Other than that though, you can do pretty much anything you want with any derivative works you create (which seems to be what you're talking about wanting to do), provided that they use a license that is compatible with and at least as restrictive as the MIT license (which includes, among others, the Apache Licenses, the MPL, most of the BSD variants, and all the GPL variants ).

It's probably worth noting here that the MIT license is one of the most permissive classical open-source licenses out there. It's about as close as you can get to being public domain while still protecting copyright and disclaiming liability. Among other things, you can even legally redistribute MIT licensed software commercially (you can also do this with most BSD licenses), in contrast to 'protective' open-source licenses like the GPL which only allow free redistribution.

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    The GPL allows normal sale of software. It isn't suited for some business models, since whoever buys your software can redistribute it as they like, but there has been commercial use of software under the GPL. Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 20:27

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