Basically, I was just wondering if I release a piece of open source software under the MIT license, does that mean that someone could take it and sell it onto people without doing any modification to it?

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    This applies to any license that is certified as OSI-compliant. Some licenses will also require the seller to make the source code available; MIT doesn't. Jun 2, 2019 at 6:04
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    For you information: most open source license do not put any restriction on commercial use/selling. The restrictions they typically impose are 1) attribution (so if they sell the software they typically have to say that you are the original author in some way) and 2) licensing (e.g. a GPL software can be sold by a third party but only as GPL). The various licenses deal with these 2 points slightly differently and some close loopholes like SaaS use (e.g. GPL vs Affero GPL).
    – Bakuriu
    Jun 2, 2019 at 9:37
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    And please notice that since you released the same software for free, there is nothing worthwhile to sell. Scams aside, anybody selling copies of your software is just charging for the service of retrieving and copying the software - that is, they are charging for spreading your software. This is the point of any free license without commercial restrictions.
    – Pere
    Jun 2, 2019 at 10:49
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    @PeterCordes: Regardless of plagiarism, the MIT license does require preserving the copyright line. If someone altered that to facilitate their plagiarism, then they would violate the license.
    – Kevin
    Jun 2, 2019 at 15:11
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    @Pere More than that. Red Hat and SUSE's business model is based around taking open source software (Linux) and selling warranties of security, function and compatibility that all licenses disclaim. When there's a bug, these companies provide technical support for people who paid. Other services include installation, customization, testing, documentation, and compilation of code, when you buy a TV running Linux, for example, you are paying for this work.
    – user71659
    Jun 3, 2019 at 4:52

2 Answers 2


Yes. The license itself is really just one sentence long, and states explicitly that this is allowed.

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions: The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

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    More importantly, that's essentially the purpose of the MIT license. If you don't want your software to be sold you use GPL. MIT license is far more open and allows anyone to use and sell the software with or without modification. So if you use MIT licensed code inside something you want to sell you're free to do so. (famous example is Apple using BSD as the basis for their OS (under BSD license, obviously, which is essentially the same).
    – xyious
    Jun 3, 2019 at 16:03
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    @xyious GPL software can be sold without modification as well. In fact, almost every open source software allows selling. An exception are the Creative Commons non-commercial licenses. The BSD license allows mixing of proprietary and free software.
    – Brythan
    Jun 3, 2019 at 17:57
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    Yes, thank you for correcting me. I misremembered. GPL says you need to distribute your source code with whatever you're selling if it's an extension to GPL licensed code. MIT doesn't have such provisions.
    – xyious
    Jun 3, 2019 at 18:45
  • @Brythan Of course the idea of a business model based on selling software for money usually includes protecting the source code by not distributing it, otherwise the first buyer can redistribute the software for free, so while technically you can sell it, that business model is crippled by the license forcing the user to distribute not only the source code of the GPL library (for example) you're using, but also the code you wrote that uses the library. The BSD and MIT licenses are friendly to that model. Jun 4, 2019 at 0:51
  • Its worth noting the no-commercial license is incompatible with the GPL, as GPL code can not be combined with another license that imposes restrictions beyond what the GPL already restricts. LGPL code CAN be used, but for the purpose of distribution LGPL code must be included dynamically linked with any changes to the code published. As far as the GPL is concerned , consider No-Commercial licensed code to be proprietry.
    – Shayne
    Jun 4, 2019 at 5:34

This is of course not legal advice, we're talking hypothetically...

Yes, this is possible, and for the most part it's fine.

The idea behind many Open Source licenses is that this effect is nothing to worry about. You as the author intend not to make money from selling the software yourself, so you open-sourced it. You presumably are also making it very easy for the public to access your sources.

Hence, if someone tries to sell your software, they will have no customers unless whatever additional service they add is worth it. For example, in the good old days before ubiquitous free internet access, it would have made sense for someone to provide CDs of large software distributions (Linux distros, (La)TeX collections come to mind); and they would certainly ask for money even though they "only" burned it to the CD. You were then paying the CD, the overhead of production etc., not the software per se. Not a cent of those payments would go to the original authors. If the original authors wanted to earn money this way, they were free to sell their own CDs (maybe with added benefits, like being faster with new releases, adding expert support on top, whatever). So the re-seller did not hurt the authors in any way.

Another example: you can develop a nice MIT-licensed command-line "engine". Everybody is free to grab that, add a fancy GUI on top, remove the command line interface, and publish it binary-only/closed-source, provided they include a note about your engine alongside it. (Compare https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/a/189704/219913 for a discussion how this relates to other licenses like BSD or GPL). They can make it so nobody would even notice that your stuff is in there if they'd not read the lincense.txt or "About" button.

Even if you think that this were rude or unfair, it remains that a potential buyer would in fact pay for the GUI, the bundling, etc.; and a potential buyer who does not need it still has access to your open-source bits. So if a buyer thinks the added functionality is not worth it, they can easily circumvent it - the re-seller cannot take anything away from you.

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