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Is MIT License Freeware?

No, MIT license is not exactly the same as freeware. The MIT license is an open source software license that provides more freedoms compared to traditional freeware.

Freeware refers to software that is available for use at no monetary cost. It is usually proprietary software distributed by the copyright holder with certain restrictions, and the source code is typically not made available.

Open source software like MIT license grants additional rights to the user – to access and modify the source code, redistribute both source and binaries, incorporate into commercial products etc. So while MIT licensed software can be used without paying royalties, it provides more freedoms compared to freeware.

Let‘s take a more in-depth look at what the MIT license is, how it compares to freeware models, and the pros and cons of using MIT licensed code.

What is the MIT License?

The MIT License is a short, permissive open source software license that originated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the late 1980s.

As a permissive license, it allows reuse of the software with minimal restrictions, as long as the license and copyright notice are included with copies of the source code. This gives users a lot of freedom in how they use and distribute the software.

Some key features of the MIT license:

  • Permits reuse of the software commercially and privately. MIT licensed software can be used in proprietary closed source software as well.
  • Allows modifying, merging and distributing copies of the software without royalty fees.
  • License text and copyright notice must be included with copies.
  • Compatible with many open source licenses like GPL.
  • Does not provide any warranty regarding the software.

Due to its permissive nature, the MIT license does not restrict the user or place many obligations on them. This flexibility makes MIT a popular open source software license used by many major open source projects.

How is MIT License Different from Freeware?

Freeware refers to software that is available free of charge to end users. However, there are often restrictions imposed by the copyright holder on using and distributing freeware.

Some key differences between MIT license and freeware:

  • Source Code – Freeware is typically proprietary closed source software. MIT license requires providing source code access.

  • Commercial Use – Freeware may restrict commercial use while MIT license explicitly permits it.

  • Distribution – Freeware authors can limit redistribution rights. MIT license allows unrestricted distribution.

  • Modifications – End users cannot modify or derive new versions of freeware. The MIT licenses allows modifying and creating derivatives.

  • Limited Warranty – Freeware may disclaim any damages from use. MIT license also provides no warranty.

So while freeware can be used for free, the MIT license provides end users with more flexibility and freedom regarding commercial use, distribution, modifications etc.

Is MIT License Really Free to Use?

Yes, software under the MIT license is free to use, even for commercial purposes. The MIT license does not charge any royalties or impose restrictions on selling software that uses MIT-licensed code.

Some key points on how "free" applies to MIT license:

  • No Royalties – You can reuse, modify and sell MIT licensed software without paying licensing fees or royalties.

  • Commercial Usage – The MIT license explicitly permits using the software commercially. Many companies use MIT licensed software as part of proprietary applications.

  • Modifications Allowed – Derivative works and modifications can be made without needing additional permission.

  • No Warranty – The software comes without any warranty so users bear any risks from usage themselves.

However, the MIT license does have conditions like retaining the copyright notice in source code copies. But generally it places minimal restrictions compared to other more restrictive open source licenses.

Pros of Using MIT Licensed Software

1. Permissive license terms

The MIT license places minimal restrictions on reuse of the software. This gives you a lot of freedom on how you use, modify and share the code.

2. Commercial friendly

MIT licensed code can be freely used in commercial products and services without royalties. This makes it suitable for commercial usage.

3. Compatible with proprietary licenses

MIT code can be integrated and bundled with proprietary closed source or shared source software.

4. Good documentation

MIT licensed projects like Python tend to have great documentation and learning resources available.

5. Facilitates collaboration

The permissive licensing makes it easy to collaborate with others and attract contributions on projects.

Cons of Using MIT Licensed Software

1. No patent protection

The MIT license only provides copyright protection and does not grant any patent licenses. Contributors can still enforce patents covering the software.

2. Limited warranty

The MIT license disclaims any liability or warranty for the software. So you use it at your own risk.

3. Doesn‘t prevent proprietary derivatives

Others can take MIT licensed code and release their own competing proprietary versions. The MIT license does not prevent this.

4. Weak copyleft effect

Modified versions do not need to remain open source. The MIT license has a weak copyleft effect compared to strong GPL style copyleft licenses.

5. Security concerns with permissiveness

The minimal restrictions of MIT makes some security conscious enterprises hesitant to use such permissively licensed open source software.

So as you can see, while the MIT license provides a high degree of freedom to use and share the software, there are some drawbacks stemming from its permissive nature.

Is MIT License Suitable for My Project?

Whether the MIT license fits your needs depends on your goals and priorities for licensing the open source project.

The MIT license is a great fit if:

  • You want to foster wide adoption and collaboration on your project.

  • Your priority is to allow others to freely use and modify your code, even commercially.

  • You are not concerned about copyleft effects or proprietary derivatives.

  • Compatibility with other licenses is important.

  • You want a simple, permissive license with minimal conditions.

On the other hand, if your priorities are different, you may want to consider other licenses like GPL, LGPL or AGPL that provide stronger copyleft effects. The MIT license gives up control over distribution of derivatives.

For most hobby, academic and commercial projects, the MIT license ends up being a flexible licensing choice. But consider what protections or control over derivatives is important for your specific project when choosing a license.

Popular MIT Licensed Open Source Projects

The MIT license is used by many popular open source software projects. Some notable examples:

  • Node.js – JavaScript runtime environment
  • Python – General purpose programming language
  • Ruby on Rails – Web application framework for Ruby
  • jQuery – Popular JavaScript library

The MIT license allows these projects to foster open collaboration between developers, third-party packages and commercial usage by enterprises. The permissive licensing ends up benefiting the project ecosystem and adoption.

Other major projects like GNU tools, Linux kernel and Git use GPL style copyleft licenses with stronger terms regarding derivative works. So the licensing choice depends on specific open source project needs.

Can I Use MIT Code in My Open Source Project?

Yes, MIT licensed source code can be incorporated into other open source projects rather freely due to its permissive nature.

Some key points:

  • MIT code can be reused in other MIT licensed projects without any issues.

  • Using MIT code in GPL projects is also permitted. The MIT license is GPL-compatible.

  • For other licenses, check compatibility with the MIT license. Most open source licenses like Apache allow mixing with MIT licensed code.

  • Retain the MIT license text and copyright notice when redistributing any MIT licensed source code used.

  • If you modify MIT licensed code, best to contribute changes back to the original project to benefit the community when possible.

So in most cases, MIT licensed source code can be freely reused in other open source projects following some basic conditions like preserving copyright notices.

Can I Modify MIT Licensed Software?

Yes, you have broad permissions to modify MIT licensed open source software according to your needs.

Some key points on modifying MIT licensed code:

  • The license explicitly permits creating modified versions and derivative works.

  • You can add new features or customize MIT projects like Python to fit your requirements.

  • Modified versions can be kept private and do not need to be open sourced.

  • But do remember to include the MIT license text and copyright notice in your modified copies.

  • Consider contributing major changes you make back to the original project and community. This is good open source etiquette.

  • Also check if there are any contributor license agreements (CLA) for that particular project before submitting pull requests with modifications.

So feel free to tweak, customize and tailor MIT licensed open source software to build upon it for your own usage.

What Are Some Alternatives to MIT License?

Some other popular open source software licenses besides MIT are:

  • Apache 2.0 – Also permissive, requires patent license grant

  • GNU GPL – Copyleft license, requires open sourcing derivative works

  • BSD 3-clause – Permissive license, similar to MIT

  • Mozilla Public License – File copyright and license notices for modifications

  • LGPL – Weaker copyleft, allows proprietary code linking

  • Eclipse Public License – Copyleft, similar terms to GPL

For a hobby project, MIT or Apache offer simple permissive licensing. For larger projects, balance permissive advantages against copyleft protections. GPL offers strongest copyleft effect requiring derivatives to remain open source.

Is the MIT License a Good Choice for My Project?

The MIT license can be a great choice if you want to foster openness and collaboration on your project. It places minimal restrictions on others reusing your source code.

Some factors to consider when deciding between MIT license or alternatives:

  • User freedom – MIT provides broad freedoms to modify and redistribute the software.

  • Commercial adoption – MIT licensed projects see widespread commercial adoption and contributions.

  • Compatibility – The MIT license has excellent compatibility with other open source and proprietary licenses.

  • Control over derivatives – MIT has a weak copyleft effect compared to restrictive licenses like GPL.

  • Patent protection – MIT does not grant an explicit patent license while Apache 2.0 does.

  • Documentation requirements – MIT has fewer documentation clauses compared to licenses like MPL.

For many smaller projects, MIT provides the right balance of permissive licensing. For larger projects that warrant tighter control over derivatives, GPL could be a better choice.


The MIT license is one of the most popular open source software licenses, providing a high degree of reuse freedom balanced by attribution. Understanding how it differs from freeware licensing, the advantages it provides over proprietary models, and compatibility with other licenses allows choosing the right license for your next open source project!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.