I'm in the middle of uploading a project to github. My software uses some icons which are licensed: "Creative Commons (CC BY 3.0 US)"

Should I hardcode the credits in a... let's say "Help->About" dialog for the software or can I ship a CREDITS.txt file inside the source code tree on github. For example inside icons folder with credit to the authors and links?

Also can I use a MIT license for this case?

  • 1
    I don't have the time to review the licenses right this second, but in general one must provide the license text for all components with the software. At the very least, you should have text files for each license and a readme explaining which components have which licenses. Then in a help dialog you can say "portions are licensed under X, Y and Z, see the accompanying documentation for full details."
    – user22815
    Jan 5, 2015 at 21:55
  • So if I understood well i can have more than 1 LICENSE file in a project like 1 in the root /src dir for the complete project and then 1 in the subdir /icons for the icons. And the content of these is the actual license text. Besides these you recommend mentioning these in the Readme file? Could it be rather inside a CREDITS.txt so the Readme stays clean from license stuff?
    – PathOfNeo
    Jan 5, 2015 at 22:00
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    While organizations such as the FSF have their own standards, there is no universal way this must be done. Pick whatever makes sense for your project and make sure it is halfway intuitive. If nothing else, putting a note in the README about where to look for more info is a fail safe way to let people know. Just so long as the license info is in your distribution, you should satisfy most popular open source licenses for code and other resources (e.g. icons and documentation).
    – user22815
    Jan 5, 2015 at 22:03
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    Just glancing at section 4.b in the legal code this seems somewhat similar to aspects of the original BSD / 4 clause BSD license that has issues with GPL compatibility because of the attribution required aspects.
    – user40980
    Jan 5, 2015 at 22:36
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    @Snowman Creative Commons licences are intentionally designed to allow more simple attribution than free software licences do, in particular you are not obliged to the distribute the full legal text along with a covered work. (However, in that specific case I do not see any reason to not to do so.) Jan 6, 2015 at 2:10

1 Answer 1


A software program and the icons it uses are generally not considered derived works of each other under copyright law. This means that there is no interaction between the license used for the icons and the license used for the software. The licenses do not even have to be compatible with each other.

That said, the CC-BY license of the icons does place some requirements on you, and the proposed CREDITS.txt file might not fulfill them.
One of the requirements is that the attribution given to the author of the icons must be in the same place and equally prominent as other attributions you give. Those other attributions would also include third-party libraries.
If you already have a Help->About box and/or a LICENSES.txt or README.txt file where you mention the third-party libraries you use, then you must put the attribution for the icons there as well.
If you don't have any source/library credits yet, then collecting all credits in a CREDITS.txt file is ok, provided that the file is distributed with all copies of your program (also the binary-only distributions).

tl;dr: Every distribution of your program with the icons must contain an attribution to the icon's author in some way. This can be a Help->About screen or a separate file. If you also attribute authors of other works (such as libraries), all attributions must be collected together.

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