I maintain an open source application that is licensed under the MIT license, with myself as the sole copyright holder. A friend has ported my application to another language, and has also licensed it under MIT, with himself as the sole copyright holder.

Is this considered a derivative work, if none of my code is present in his codebase? Does he have any obligation to make mention of myself or my application's license?

1 Answer 1



Though there may be no license-induced obligation, it sure seems like plagiarism to me, if your friend claims, or implies by omission, that the translation is original work.

This site says (applicable more generally to text, doesn't mention source code, though on the other hand, source code is (copyrighted) text):

If you translate somebody else's work into a different language, you can take credit for the translation, but you need to give the original author credit for the ideas.

Many websites have articles concerning translation of source code to another language relative to plagiarism, so I sense that others consider that source code can be plagiarized by translation to another programming language.

  • The reasons for the port are innocent: to be a learning experience; to use my application on other platforms (iOS); and to experiment with the App Store. It sounds like what you're saying is that he should give credit for the idea, but is not bound to do so under MIT, as far as you're aware? (And I totally understand IANAL.) :)
    – carpeliam
    Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 0:46
  • If there is no claim of original work, say, because the work is not distributed or shown to anyone else, then that indeed would seem innocent. Otherwise, your friend can take full credit for the translation, but in all fairness ought to credit the original author as not doing so risks plagiarism. IANAL. However, since your friend has seen fit to create a license for the work, they should have given also seen fit to give credit where it is due: the original author, IMHO.
    – Erik Eidt
    Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 0:59
  • Creating a license for the translation without acknowledging the translation's original seems below board: it is tantamount to claiming credit for the whole work as an original. (I think there very well could be contexts in which this is violation of copyright law, as a translation of prose into another human language, I think, violates standard copyright law, for example. The question I don't know about is the MIT license. Requires a lawyer. I don't think the MIT license requires you to give up "moral rights".)
    – Erik Eidt
    Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 1:12
  • This sounds right - I wonder, if a lawyer ever ends up perusing StackExchange, if there is any other interpretation of MIT... until then, this seems correct!
    – carpeliam
    Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 21:09

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