Whenever a software license reads:

... The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

Does this mean you have to include it with the executable (the version customers get) or just the source code (for the programmers)?

Sorry if this is a silly question, but it doesn't clearly state what "the Software" is referring to, and I can see people maybe wanting credit for it.

If you don't have to include the license with the executable, do you need to give credit in your executable release some other way, like some other kind of copyright notice that just says "Copyright "? Is there a specific format to that?

  • Legal questions are a bit off topic here. If in doubt, ask a lawyer. Points to consider: • There is no fundamental difference between source code, intermediate representations, and machine code: they are all representations of the same software. • A license has a legal text, and a spirit. Would you want to violate the spirit of software helping you (for free!)? • The software you produce will have some license as well. Wouldn't that be the place to refer to MIT-licensed portions of your software?
    – amon
    Oct 2, 2013 at 18:54
  • 1
    My apologies, I was told to come here from this top rated answer meta.stackexchange.com/a/165981/229150. No I would not want to violate the spirit of software, that's why I asked this question: I wanted to know what sort of copyright message was appropriate for such a situation. I thought it was kind of weird releasing an executable file with a message saying they have the right to merge/edit it, so that's why I was wondering if a simple copyright would be appropriate/acceptable. Is that really that bad of a question?
    – giant91
    Oct 2, 2013 at 19:58
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    @giant91 Questions about software licenses are on topic, but legal questions are not... if it seems confusing then that is because it is. Sometimes it is debatable about where to draw the line.
    – maple_shaft
    Oct 2, 2013 at 20:44
  • @maple_shaft Ah, I see. This post was intended to be mainly about software licensing, but then copyright got thrown in at the end, because I thought it was closely related. I suppose that "permission to use" and "giving someone credit" are more different than I originally thought.
    – giant91
    Oct 3, 2013 at 1:47

1 Answer 1


"Software" means whatever you attach the license to. If you include a copy of the executable, the MIT license covers that also, as well as all of the documentation you include with it.

In practice, I don't think this is going to matter. If you don't provide an executable, the users of your source code will have to compile one themselves, and the MIT license allows them to re-license that executable (and the original source code, for that matter), under a different license anyway, as they see fit.

If it matters, simply add a sentence that defines the term "software."

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