Copyright and Copyleft

Copyright law applies to nearly all creative and intellectual works and works are protected automatically without copyright notice or registration.

The nature of the law is to tie the creative works with individuals/corporate companies not allowing the work to be publicly available for further use and improvements. The irony is that it is publishers and recorders whose interest led to the formation of  copyright law not the interest of authors.

When we historify  it is understood that all intellectual properties or creative works were made on top of some other intellectual properties. When we trace back to the origin of first intellectual properly( there is nothing called first intellectual property, but for the argument sake) it can be seen that origin of such creative works were from nature.  To be specific every creation is  the result  of exchange of ideas and knowledge sharing that have taken place throughout the history. Copyright law is basically an offense to such an argument.

Anti-copyright voices also have its root in history. Famous author Leo Tolstoy wanted to ensure that, everybody who wanted to read his books could do so for free. And he tried to do whatever possible to that happen by writing a will. But The copyright laws of the Russian Empire, however, made Tolstoy’s dream impossible.  In 2003, Eben Moglen, a professor of Law at Columbia University, published the dotCommunist Manifesto, which re-interpreted the Communist Manifesto by Marx in the light of the development of computer technology and the internet; much of the re-interpreted content discussed copyright law and privilege in Marxist terms.

Currently, there are groups advocating the abolition of copyright. Kopimi an anti-copyright initiative developed by the Piratbyrå in Sweeden, Pirate Cinema and groups like The League of Noble Peers are leading names that argue and campaign for abolishing  modern copyright law.

On continuing the fight against copyright one option was to violate the law and keep sharing materials to public “illegally” with a risk of ending up in jail. “Vigilant” state and a court would ensure that you go to jail or punished for doing so framing you as criminal or anti-national. What happened to Aaron Swartz is evident that state could go to any extreme to uphold what they think is correct.

The another option was to develop alternative platforms within the frame of current copyright law where some of the rights of copying or sharing of intellectual property are made possible. This is what gave birth to the idea of copyleft. Copyleft  mandates redistribution of an intellectual  property by tweaking or hacking ownership definition of copyright law. Copyleft is not a different law , it is part of copyright law.

How is that possible ?The copyright law grants to copyright owners a series or bundle of specified rights

Reproduction of works
Distribution of copies
Making of derivative works
Public performance and display of works.
In addition, certain works of visual art have moral rights regarding the name of the artist on the work or preventing the destruction of them.
Copyright owners may also have rights to prevent anyone from circumventing technological protection systems that control access to the works.

Based on this clauses a creator can decide what rights her creative works should have. This is nothing new, a creator could have made her work available to others to use,modify or distribute before the idea of copyleft was introduced. However, the cost of publishing creators works leads creators to assign her rights to publishers temporarily or permanently. From then publishers own the right of that particular work.

The Internet made publishing cost to come down drastically that fueled more creative works to be available for public and one of the main reason behind the success of “Free Software” and Creative Commons.

Copyleft license mandates below freedoms through certain licenses(collectively called as copyleft licenses) which are legal. i.e any creative works licensed under copyleft licenses are allowed to be used by anyone with some or no restriction.

0. the freedom to use the work,

1. the freedom to study the work,

2. the freedom to copy and share the work with others,

3. the freedom to modify the work, and the freedom to distribute modified and therefore derivative works.

The hack in copyleft license is that any derived work from a copyleft licensed work has to be published under the same copyleft license. This is to ensure that no one controls any such creative work as long as current copyright law is not modified.

On top of it, after a certain period, all creative works goes to public domain which is basically non-copyrighted anyone is free to use/distribute or make derivative out of it. Works in the public domain are those whose exclusive intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable. One such collection of public domain music is musopen initiative. This portal provides a collection of public domain music that can be used by anyone without worrying about the copyright infringement and court cases.

The main reason why Shakespeare is the most quoted author in the world is because his works are in  public domain. History has already proven that when there are lesser restriction a literature work, song or any forms of intellectual property reaches to maximum people which every creator would love to see.