Why I CopyLeft Not Copyright

If you notice on the footer of this page, it shows a notice saying that this website is licensed under CC BY-SA which is quite an open license. It is the license that is regarded as a CopyLeft license. As well as my many maintained and created software/library repositories are licensed under GPLv3 and AGPLv3 which are both copyleft licenses.

Copyleft is a play on the normal term of copyright but to be much more open and avoid all rights reserved. As well it’s associated with the free culture movement as it is approved for the use for free cultural works as defined by freedomdefined.org.

So why do I license my work to make it freer?

Why Free Cultural Works

For everything that I make, it is made free. This covers everything from programs I code to the various essays I have and will publish to the full array of guides that I have written. Not just free in terms of price or availability but free as people are free to modify, share and have unrestricted access to the vast collection of stuff. That’s what makes copyleft, copyleft.

Now, why do I even bother with this stuff to make it free cultural works anyway? Well, first with the educational/guides it’s to reach the largest amount of people by nature of it being freer to access. Also provides this large base with good information because the internet is filled right to the top with some rather dodgy advice and information so giving people more rights to share and do more with the content and by proxy, the information gets out to more people with more streams. While if it gets modified more and more it might lose a bit of the original information but I know that my stuff is not the sole truth of all information I share and new ideas and information gets found and thought about every day so it can evolve and make the great stuff even better with time and fix my own errors and misinformation.

For stuff like my code, I want people to use it in every application they like plus the same note that it reaches more people through the amazing FOSS community and its discovery tools. With copyleft, it looks at freedom of the work plus the redistribution of the remixed and adapted work which is important for software.

Permissive Licenses

The software ecosystem revolves around the sharing of information and little code snippets but often once they enter this system they get lost without an owner forever. While little snippets are not licensable this ecosystem applies to a lot of larger works. This brings up a great example of Andrew Tanenbaum, who released MINIX, an operating system, under a BSD license. Intel swept MINIX and used it to make the Intel Management Engine (which was possible due to the licensing), making it the OS of the spyware microprocessor/backdoor now running in all Intel CPUs. Even if this OS has become the most used OS because of its large implementation the permissive license allowed Intel to take it from Tanenbaum and make the source of it closed.

It completely removes the programmer from the program when distributed and with guides and such with copyleft, you get the credit for your work when it inevitably gets modified and redistributed.

Why ShareAlike

With the example of Tanenbaum, the source code of Intel Management Engine was completely closed off so they could make it into the spyware that it became with the basic work done by Tanenbaum. The extent and full known use of the IME are still kinda unknown because of this fact and without open source code, no one can see it.

So this is why I like ShareAlike licenses, while ShareAlike is the term used by Creative Commons it’s a good term to describe the use of a clause in a license that requires all modifications that are distributed to be under the same or equivalent license/license terms. So this means that it has to be open source for all future distributions which solves this issue from the example above for software but it is also helpful with documents.

With another example with guides and such, using a ShareAlike means that the knowledge becomes virally free. All the information that gets added on in remixes and modifications compounds and has to be released so that people can do the same. So we all win.


While you can also conclude that ShareAlike is restrictive for all the licensing that goes forward and we should just stop companies from using these programs like MINIX in commercial products and solutions with a non-commercial clause. But it goes against the philosophy of free cultural works which should not deny access to this because of intentions because something like newsletters or software CDs are distributing the work and doing it for a commercial benefit but it’s not nefarious. Plus there are thousands of situations where it doesn’t restrict access to the source. Also, we want these companies to help with the effort and it’s much better to just release the source or use ShareAlike compared to just not being able to use such a thing.

Works of Opinion

This model might not work for every bit of my work though. Like my essays of opinion. Like my labels essay which expresses just a bit of my opinion and the issue that arises is if it gets modified and kind of loses its original meaning. Where the no derivatives clause comes in, which prohibits the distribution of modified copies and has to be copied and shared verbatim. While the information might be shared that is noteworthy in terms of content that is theories which could be added on to by derivatives with another license it’s just not worth and can still have excerpts extracted.

Conclusion: Freedom of Information

All information should be free to be accessed and redistributed so no one entity owns the power and the knowledge. I for one am going to share my thoughts so it can help all who might be interested and share, collate and create better ways to unite information to be free and accessible for you.

If we get more information and code out the more we all benefit so if you are writing an essay or some code or a blog think if it could be a little freer.

Tags: philosophy, meta

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