We all have a vague idea of what “copyright” means (i.e., legal protection of written creations). But what is “copyleft?” Is that even a real word?
Although it varies from country to country, copyright generally gives authors a number of rights relating to their works, including the exclusive right to copy, distribute, and adapt the work. [Source: Copyright – Wikipedia. [Downloaded October 20, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright] The United State Constitution explains that the purpose of copyright law is “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” [Source: US_Copyright_Law – Wikipedia. Downloaded October 20, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Copyright_Law]
So what happens when copyright law starts interfering with the promotion of useful arts? For example, what would the writers of the Constitution think of American music companies suing independent artists for sampling other works? And what about computer programmers who get sued for borrowing code from other programs? This is where “copyleft” comes in.
The word “copyleft” is an annoying play on the word “copyright” (annoying because the “right” in “copyright” is not the opposite of “left,” but rather refers to a legal right), but it stands for a real legal movement that is probably here to stay. Copyleft refers to the methods that certain authors use to make their works freely available to others, while requiring that the work remain free if it is subsequently distributed. Copyleft is essentially a form of intellectual property licensing under which authors choose to retain fewer rights than they could retain under copyright law. [Source: Copyleft – Wikipedia. Downloaded October 20, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyleft.]
An example of copyleft licensing is GNU’s GPL License, the standard license used by many software creators to provide open-source software and ensure that such software remains open-source, even when modified.[Source: GPL_License – Wikipedia. Downloaded October 20, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPL_License]
Subject to certain terms posted on GNU’s website, software developers are free to use the GNU GPL License for their software.
Copyleft – Wikipedia. Downloaded October 20, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyleft.
GPL_License – Wikipedia. Downloaded October 20, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPL_License.
US_Copyright_Law – Wikipedia. Downloaded October 20, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Copyright_Law.