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Former featured article candidate Copyleft is a former featured article candidate. Please view the links under Article milestones below to see why the nomination failed. For older candidates, please check the archive.
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September 18, 2004 Peer review Reviewed
January 31, 2005 Featured article candidate Not promoted
Current status: Former featured article candidate
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New terms and symbols[edit]

Proposals for new terms and symbols for copyleft and related concepts should not appear on Wikipedia or any encyclopedia, but is work that is done elsewhere.

Creative Commons[edit]

Material about Creative Commons belongs at Creative Commons.

Etymology dispute with "Free software" article[edit]

from talk:Free software

According to wikipedia 'copyleft' was coined by Don Hopkins and not Richard Stallman. The Free software and the Copyleft articles now disagree with eachother. --arcade

This could be tough to sort out -
The Origin and Practice of "Copyleft" - -
"Transcopyright: Pre-Permission for Virtual Republishing" by Theodor Holm Nelson - - (says "the terms "shareware" and "copyleft," declared by Bob Wallace and Richard Stallman respectively, have come to represent their respective permission doctrines, both [are] now widely accepted and used.")

Both of those attributions are wrong. "Shareware" predates Wallace as well--I know that I personally saw the term applied to, for example, things like ARC (the original pre-Phil Katz version) long before Wallace's PCWrite. Both should, however, be credited with refining and popularizing the terms. --LDC

and none of this has anything to do with viral licenses, which apply as much to patents or to music as to software.

It was coined by Don Hopkins without question, then popularized by Stallman. Stallman says so himself on his website. --AxelBoldt

correct, Don Hopkins wrote it on an envelope - "copyleft: no rights reserved". Don validates the story - I heard it from him firsthand.

The "viral" issue[edit]

The related "Viral license" article[edit]

I redirected viral license to this article. There were a couple of things wrong with that article: First, it mentioned trademark and patent law, but viral licenses don't exist in that realm. Second, it was blatantly non-NPOV, in that it called viral license "desirable and popular" and used the phrase "degrade to an open source project", making the additional mistake of assuming that open source projects cannot be copylefted. AxelBoldt, Tuesday, April 2, 2002

"it mentioned trademark and patent law, but viral licenses don't exist in that realm." This is false. You have clearly not researched the subject. MIT and the Government of China both employ viral patent licenses requiring reliable favorable terms for re-licensing improvements to works they license.
That is not viral. It would be viral if they required improvements to be licensed under the same terms that they originally licensed their patents under. What you describe is just a regular deal: I give you something, if you do something useful with it, you need to give it to me cheap. No virus whatsoever. How about a similarly mistaken trademark example? AxelBoldt
" it was blatantly non-NPOV, in that it called viral license "desirable and popular" and used the phrase "degrade to an open source project", making the additional mistake of assuming that open source projects cannot be copylefted." This is your ideological problem. Viral licenses such as the MIT and Chinese and GNU license are all quite popular, and must be considered desirable by *someone* or they wouldn't be. If you want it clarified to whom it is desirable or popular, fine, but destroying the article over that issue amounts to vandalism.
if you call something "desirable" even though even in the hacker community there's a lot of debate about its merits, let alone in the software industry at large, you have to face your own biases. Viral licenses are not popular, except in a small segment of society. You are smart enough to see through your "must be considered desirable by someone or they wouldn't be", so I don't need to comment. The V-word doesn't help your case in any way. AxelBoldt
Look up the open source definition and the approved licenses, you will find GPL. AxelBoldt

Copyleft is not the same as viral. The LGPL is a copyleft license that is not viral: all derivatives of the work must be free, but they can be combined with non-free works. GPL is both copyleft and viral, all derivatives, and anything which they are combined must be free (hence, viral, because it attaches itself to the larger project). So, if a library is GPL'ed, then any program that calls it must be free. If it is LGPL'ed, non-free stuff can use it. DanKeshet, Tuesday, April 2, 2002

LGPL is actually Copyleft license but not a strong one since it permits linking with non-free modules. See "Various Licenses and Comments about Them" [1]. BTW this doesn't change the Copyleft vs Virality issue, that is, Copyleft is neither good or evil, it's just a general practice and the way you consider it depends only on your point of view.
The "virality" of a Copyleft license refers to the fact that requires all modified and extended versions of the program to be free as well. It refers to its persistent and propagative character. Again, it may be a desiderable or undesiderable thing, according to your point of you. What one may call virality another one may call it strenght.
This being said, the LGPL is still a Copyleft license but is "less viral" than GPL.Ncrfgs 21:24, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
Only derivative works of GPL'd works fall under GPL. You can "combine" GPL code with anything, but if the combination constitutes a derivative work, then you'll have to GPL the whole code. The LGPL explicitly allows certain derivative works to be non-LGPL. In that sense, LGPL is "less copyleft" and also "less viral" than GPL. AxelBoldt

Would any book that references the Wikipedia therefore defect to copyleft status. I'm not talking any encyclopedias; I mean things like biographies and novels, which might quote it or something. -Litefantastic 01:19, 4 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Not necessarily. Quotation is usually excluded from copyright as fair use. Copyleft only works by using copyright. Copying large chunks is a different matter though. Tim Ivorson 07:49, 4 Oct 2004 (UTC)

"Copyleft licenses are sometimes called viral copyright licenses because any works derived from a copylefted work must themselves be copylefted."

The only one I saw calling copyleft licenses "viral", is Microsoft, saying that "theses are sometime called viral". Did you ever saw someone else calling it this way ?

Claiming that Microsoft is the only one calling copyleft viral is ignoring almost 20 years of history. Microsoft did not invent the term "viral" in regards to the GPL or other copyleft licenses. The term GPV or "GNU/General Public Virus" goes back almost 20 years. Do a google groups search, and you'll see that the perjorative has a long and colorful history. The article appeared to make it seem like Microsoft invented this term, so i've modified the article to more clearly define its history. 00:00, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

Agreed, copyleft is not the same as viral. That's why "viral license" was a separate article. Many patent and trademark licenses by consortia etc. are viral too. DanKeshet is right that GPL is "both copyleft and viral", and makes no reference to patents, e.g. does not require re-integration of patentable improvements, nor trademarks, e.g. does not require crediting GNU in its name, as per Stallman's absurd complaint that this "should" happen for Linux after 20 years of never so requiring such "trademark-like" recognition.

Microsoft on "viral" terminology[edit]

"The view that copyleft licenses are viral is supported by Microsoft. They say that if your product uses GPLed code, your product automatically escapes your control, becomes GPLed right away and you can't do anything about it."

Does anyone have a citation for Microsoft making that claim (the second sentence)? User:Anthony 03:08, 7 Mar 2004 (UTC)

[2] I've heard Microsoft execs talk about this too. I'm sure you could find some choice quotes by searching Google news. --mav
First of all, I was talking about the second sentence. Of course Microsoft thinks that copyleft is viral. In fact, it is. I believe this is a strawman. The closest statement I can come up with is "If the licensee modifies GPL code or includes any GPL code in a larger work, the entire new or aggregate work becomes subject to the terms of the GPL." Now while technically that's perhaps not correct, if you don't agree to license the work under the GPL you could be sued for copyright infringement. If people really want to unnecessarily bash Microsoft I guess a direct quote would do. But the focus of the statement above is on the words "automatically", "right away", and "you can't do anything about it." Microsoft even uses the term "presumably" in the sentence "Hence, a commercial software product that incorporates any amount of source code from a product subject to the viral GNU General Public License presumably becomes "infected" with GPL restrictions." I mean, sure, you can break the law and and not subject your code to the license, but this is a really fine point. User:Anthony 13:45, 7 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Seven months have gone by, and no one has given a citation for the second sentence. I'm removing it. User:Anthony 19:32, 9 Oct 2004 (UTC)

This was recently removed citing there was "discussion on the talk page". I think it's a helpful thing to point out.
Standard copyright programs are also "viral" in this way, since derivative works can only be distributed under terms imposed by the original author and require explicit permission.
For instance, if I made changes to source code to Windows Vista or PINE, I would need to ask permission to distribute the derivative work I produced. -- 13:43, 9 June 2007 (UTC)
Right, that would have been me, referring to the 'The "viral" issue' section, of which Microsoft's opinion is just a part. While you're correct about derivative works requiring permission, that's not what "viral" means and that's not what the question revolves around. "Viral" in the copyleft context is about the "infection" of one piece of original work by the license of another. This "infection" aspect is exactly the reason that the FSF created the Library GPL, and their understanding that it reduced the cross-work enforcement of the GPL's freedoms was the reason they renamed it the "Lesser GPL". Copyright isn't "viral", in that author A's rights in his original work aren't impacted by that work's use of author B's other original work, In contrast, in some opinions certain copyleft licenses are "viral" in that author A's work must be licensed under the terms of author B's work. I hope that's clearer. RossPatterson 14:59, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

You've talked about copyleft, but not enough about copyright. If I write a derivative work of a traditional copyrighted work or if I write a work that is in anyway dependent on same copyrighted work (through static, dyanmic or whatever linking), the distribution of my work is legally dependent on the copyright restrictions of the original work. Ignoring (the limited) aspects of fair use, the same situation exists for books, music, film and the rest, just as it is with software: The law requires permission to distribute a derivative work of a copyrighted work.

Compare this situation with the following in a notable copyleft software license:

Thus, it is not the intent of this section to claim rights or contest your rights to work written entirely by you; rather, the intent is to exercise the right to control the distribution of derivative or collective works based on the Program. (emphasis added)

Copyleft "infection" is no different than the "infection" of a traditionally copyrighted work. Is it not? -- 17:22, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

Yes, it is different. I suggest you forget derivative works and focus on original works — in sofware, that means code written from scratch, not based on other code. I don't think anyone would disagree that a program that is a modification of another program is a derivative work under both copyright and copyleft, and that there's nothing viral about that. But with an original work, there can't be any "infection", "viral whatever", "contamination", call it what you will, based solely on copyright when a program is written without reference to another program. Copyright doesn't care if you call a subroutine written by another author, an original work is original because the author wrote it without reference to and without basing it on any other work. The notable copyleft software license disagrees, and says in its FAQs:
You have a GPL'ed program that I'd like to link with my code to build a proprietary program. Does the fact that I link with your program mean I have to GPL my program?
That's what critics mean by "viral", and it's quite different from the copyright concept of a derivative work. RossPatterson 00:09, 10 June 2007 (UTC)

The original quote you removed only talked about "derivative works". So, can we put it back? -- 13:05, 13 June 2007 (UTC)

Nope. As I've noted above in a bunch of different ways, "viral" as it's used in the context of copyleft licensing has nothing at all to do with copyright. RossPatterson 22:46, 13 June 2007 (UTC)

Weasel terms in viral desirable paragraph[edit]

I was looking over the "viral desirable" paragraph, this one in the current version:

Many feel that copyleft licenses are desirable and popular for shared works precisely because they are viral, and apply to all derivative works, which are thus "infected" by the requirement to re-integrate changes deemed desirable by any party down the line. This requirement is seen as important because it ensures uniform license terms and free access, and makes copyleft projects resistant to unnecessary forking because all maintainers, of the original work or other versions, may use any modifications released by anyone. Useful changes tend to be merged, and different versions are maintained only to the extent that they are useful. Without the "viral" license, variant terms can apply to the forks and derivative works can be controlled commercially by the parties that extend or translate them, which can be considered as some of the disadvantages of non-copyleft "open source" projects. It is thought that Linux has not suffered the same fragmentation as Unix because it is copylefted.

Besides a bit of pro-copyleft POV, which I suppose is to be expected, there are a lot of classic weasel terms in here:

Many feel that copyleft licenses are desirable...
This requirement is seen as important...
which can be considered as some of the disadvantages...
It is thought that Linux has not suffered...'

You get the idea. While this material isn't exactly invented by the editor, it would be great to find some authoritative sources, like Stallman, to cite instead of this passive voice and wishy-washy attribution. Deco 06:52, 3 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Hi Deco,
Ever read User:Jimbo Wales/Statement of principles? Well, in point 5 there Jimbo defends the viral nature of GFDL, contrary to the *official* FSF/Stallman line of proclaiming copyleft licenses not being viral. Well there you have two demi-gods, oops I mean benevolent dictators, oops I mean constitutional monarchs defending opposing views. Mind you, I think both are right. Have no idea whether that (or something similar) was the cause of the weaseliness in the paragraph you quote.
The "advantages when forking" explanation should best be kept, it is referred to from another section in the article.
But I agree, the paragraph should be rewritten in a clearer tone, do you have any proposition? For me authoritative sources like Stallman getting involved is not a prerogative, and might, if you read other content of this talk page, possibly make things more complicated rather than simpler.
--Francis Schonken 02:22, 27 Jan 2005 (UTC)


Under "Is copyleft viral?", second paragraph:

"regardless of whether the viral assertions themselves add value to the individual work" seems to me to imply that copyleft license inherently add value to a work, something which would no doubt be disputed by opponents of the concept! Propose to revise to "regardless of the positive or negative effects of the viral assertions themselves"

On the other hand I'm probably wrong since I'm pretty new to this thing, hence why I posted it here instead of editing!

Comments etc?

That is POV and does have an underlying implication like you said. The whole section there is full of weasel words and unsourced strawman arguments. It's also yet another point->counter-point back and forth criticism that pretends to be NPOV, but utlimately ends up promoting one view over the others. Nathan J. Yoder 16:18, 19 October 2005 (UTC)
I think, the paragraph under discussion is correct. Both computer and biological viruses do not bring any use to the infected victim or attacked software. And I do not know the real virus, asking if the user agrees to accept the infection. Only at least partially userful program can afford this. Differently, the used work with the copyleft license must add some value and be useful in the development of the new derived work. This is the reason why it is used in the derived work. Without bringing the additional value, both the previous work and its licence are not used and the problem should not arise. I think, the chapter correctly describes the doubts about the possibly inappropriate use of the words like "virus" and "infected" in the context that the copylefted primary work infects the derived work. One may argue that it is the license (and not the original work) that infects, but the whole combination (work + license) still have enough value to start with them. Following the copyleft license is more like some kind of price the that previous developers expect you to pay for using they work. They believe that work would not be developed, or developed worse, without the previous contributors paying the same price. The sentence "installing Windows infects you by the obligation to pay the price of the legal copy to Microsoft" would be equally true and equally strange Audriusa 14:29, 8 May 2006 (UTC)

The sentence, "The term viral is used as an analogy of computer viruses to create misunderstanding and a fear of using copylefted free software" in the current first paragraph is not NPOV. I'm in favor of removing it. KT322 19:58, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

I've attributed the comment, as it was based on the cited reference. -- 21:14, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

Does Open Source equal Copyleft?[edit]

"open source projects cannot be copylefted" - if they could, they would be "free software projects" or "free source projects" - a much more specific designation that includes by definition the viral terms. It is your own confusion of copyleft and viral license terms that is causing the problem.


Suggestion for a breakdown:

copyleft more or less as is

free_software redirects to free source

forget that right now. Don't make up new terms that nobody uses. AxelBoldt
Stallman himself has referred to documentation and code jointly as "source", and seems to demonstrate that in Axel's view, Steve Mann is "nobody". I'm tired of your propaganda, Axel, it doesn't seem to be leading anywhere in particular. Stick to math please, you seem to understand that.

free_source deals with both documentation and software and mentions patents and other instructions - there are already GPL'd patents - see

there are no GPL'd patents, because the concept doesn't make any sense. Read again. AxelBoldt
It's you who doesn't seem to want to read: "Raph Levien has licensed his patents for GPL use." 15 are listed.

A new thing called the OPL will be a viral license written properly for patents based on patent pool models.

Nope, he was right the first time; the GPL is a copyright license, and only a copyright license. What Mr. Levein has done is to issue a patent license of his own that basically says "You may use these patented techniques to create software, so long as that software's copyrights are released under the GPL". The rest of the patents on are released under the "OPL" patent license. --LDC

open_source contrasted with free source - the guarantee of "free" ensured by viral_license terms that "open" does not required

viral_license characterized more generally as the broad class of licensing terms e.g. in the Java or X11 consortium licenses which control those trademarks, e.g. in the IBM or MIT or Chinese govt patent licensing terms, e.g. in, e.g. in trade union use of instructions and training programs which usually require re-integration of improvements, e.g. in service licenses which require non-solicitation for competing services through the service itself, all of which seem to guarantee:

1. equal unharassed use for dedicated users of the service/license/patent/trademark/copyright who are not seeking an advantage for themselves at the cost of the other users, e.g. by extending "open source" and then patenting the extension, e.g. by bugging yahoo users with spam for hotmail.

2. a common simple procedure for extending/improving and re-integrating work, e.g. the Java or X11 compatibility tests.

3. an added-value market for features that do not affect interoperability, e.g. as in IP.

Comment on first paragraph[edit]

"Copyleft refers to a concept [...] to ensure perpetual availability to the public of a certain piece of information [...]"

This is not a very good definition of Copyleft, nor of a Free Software License: the above statement describes something akin to the Apple License, or the Plan 9 license, whereby modifications to the source code are required to be published, infringing the freedom of an end-user from modifying code for private use.

permission to modify?

- ND

You don't need permission: be bold in updating pages. It seems to me that you are right; this should be rephrased somewhat. AxelBoldt 17:47 Aug 23, 2002 (PDT)

Removeal of "Mother Nature"[edit]

I removed some material which sounded to me like bullshit, including the following:

some who opposed genetically modified food suggest that if some entity (Earth, its biosphere, or "Mother Nature") or a foundation representing same, were recognizing as holding a copyright in the genome of each naturally-evolved species, then all minor genetic modifications of same would be 'derivative works'.

I don't doubt that someone has suggested this somewhere, but the chances of "Mother Nature" being recognized as a holder of copyrights are unlikely, approaching zero. Until the person who added this can supply credible references, it doesn't belong on Wikipedia. -- CYD

Tualha's changes[edit]

Just rewrote the beginning. The article as a whole is still rather a mess - disorganized, perticularly regarding the history, and containing plenty of redundant material. But I want to see how my new intro flies before tackling the rest.

I took out the specific examples of the "similar licenses" because one of them was the BSD License, which is not a copyleft license at all (as the article itself notes elsewhere).

Tualha 01:11, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)

I've reworked the rework, in part because you wrote that you can't use copyrighted works without a license, which isn't a very complete summary of the situation, in part because copylefted works are copyrighted. Took the opportunity to put some of the history nearer the top so it explains the origins and intent better.

BSD isn't a copyleft license but it is a similar license, with similar objectives: making better tools available to all. It just doesn't use copyleft as one of the tools, so it's more suitable for some purposes and less suitable for others. Jamesday 21:26, 18 Apr 2004 (UTC)

copyleft characterizes free software[edit]

Copyleft is one of the key features in free software/open source licences, and is the licenses' legal framework to ensure that derivatives of the licensed work stay free/open.

Why include open source here? I think of copyleft as the key distinction between free and non-free open source, so these lines should drop the "open" references. Can an Open Source licence include copyleft features and not be free software? Even if it can, that is not typical in my experience. --NealMcB 22:48, 2004 May 24 (UTC)

copyleft anniversary in 2004?[edit]

It sounds like the 20th anniversary of copyleft is in 2004. Anyone know the date? More of the history? Commerative events? NealMcB 23:03, 2004 May 24 (UTC)

Reworking of inititial definition --Francis Schonken 07:12, 17 Aug 2004 (UTC)[edit]

I reworked the initial paragraphs of the article which define what copyleft is. While the reworking was rather intrusive (e.g. putting most of it in a new "methods for copylefting" section), I keep the original initial paragraphs here:

Copyleft is an additional (and irrevocable) provision in a copyright license that otherwise already grants certain freedoms to the licensee. These preconditional freedoms are, generally, the free unlimited use, modification and redistribution of copies of the original work. The distinctive condition to that license for being also "copyleft" is that any modified version of the work, if redistributed (thus being a derivative work), must carry the same permissions (i.e. license terms), and must be made available in a form which facilitates modification. For software, this facilitating form is considered to be a synonym to source code, pre-supposing that all necessary compilation software is also freely available.

In normal speech copyleft is also used as a pars pro toto to indicate license conditions that include all the preconditional freedoms mentioned above (often also including freedom regarding sale of media and/or of auxiliary materials, e.g. documentation, which may carry a different copyright license), together with the actual copyleft condition.

Note that copyleft generally needs to hinge to copyright law for implementing an enforcable system for derivative works to be also released with a copyleft license (so "copyleft" pre-supposes at least some framework of "copyright" law, contrary to the popular belief that copyleft wants "to do away" with copyright as a whole). Also generally copyleft implies that the names of all contributors to a work keep attached to that work. These contributors are - for reasons of protecting the copyleft mechanism by copyright law - the (pro forma) copyright holders.

So long as all of those wanting to modify the work accept the terms, one of the net effects aimed at by copyleft is to facilitate successive improvement by a wide range of contributors. Those who are unwilling or unable to accept the terms are prohibited from creating derivative works.

While what is said above somehow ties the definition of copyleft to its first recorded implementation (i.e. the GNU GPL license), a more universal and abstract definition of copyleft would be:

Copyleft is that property of a human creation that aims at preventing that the use, the propagation and the modification of that creation would be hindered by Intellectual Rights

In defense of the rework: the "abstract" definition is in effect more understandable than the circumstantial one with which this article used to start; I used more human-understandable words in describing how copyleft works in practice, instead of propping all that in a rather intelligible first paragraph;

"Art - documents" section[edit]

Mentioning Wikipedia[edit]

From the "Art - documents" section.

What does all this:

These specific GFDL techniques are not used by the Wikipedia licence, however:
  • The Wikipedia Main Page acts as a kind of title page, not unlike the GFDL "Front cover text" idea.
  • More importantly, the attention of contributors to Wikipedia articles is drawn to the NPOV principle, which hinges on broader (somehow intuitive) notions like "relevance" and "(relative) importance", see e.g. the NPOV tutorial, where following advice can be found (in "Space and balance" section):
For an entry in an encyclopedia, ideas also need to be important. The amount of space they deserve depends on their importance and how many interesting things can be said about them.
(note that importance is not defined in Wikipedia, while the Wikipedia definition of relevance has more vague edges than definition - an unexplained "depending on context" -, which is an indication that these notions indeed depend largely on some sort of intuition)
  • Wikipedia at the "" webdomain is also a "unique object" in the full sense of the word (comparable to the uniqueness that some works of art have), from which follows a possibility of being subject to destructive behaviour: to which is responded with policies that try to find a balance between freedom and protection, see e.g. "Disruptive Users" section in Wikipedia:Policy thinktank. This can be seen as the way the broader notion of "respect" is applied in Wikipedia.

have to do with copyleft?

This should be deleted unless somebody can come up with something that clarifies why any of this is related to copyleft. --Kop 21:05, 29 Aug 2004 (UTC)


- This was added by me, in fact I returned here today, because after all I felt it wasn't OK yet, and I wanted to rework the part.

- I wanted to clarify two things:

  • GFDL when applied in another context than art is even in that case less straightforward than GPL applied to software. This difference is remarked upon e.g. by Linus Torvalds in his last Business Week interview (see hyperlink above in the article - there Linus says something in the sense that he personally doesn't believe that copyleft will ever work in art, for reasons that were already explained in this article), but I have references where Linus is even clearer on the fact that he sees more complication in GFDL than in GPL (talking in a technical context, so outside art). In this sense this was meant as an addition to the previous paragraph in the "Art & documents" section, where the specificity of Copyleft in art was treated.
  • By way of example: how Wikipedia adresses these issues that have to be addressed when applying Copyleft outside the context of software, e.g. protection against vandalism while unique object; trying to give support to contributors in understanding the intuitive "broader notions" on which it relies; etc...: I tried to construct a practical example regarding what in the previous paragraph was defined as a rather vague description of "broader notions", so as to be able to make more understandable what that was about. I used Wikipedia as example, because I supposed that was the example that was easiest to understand for the readers of this encyclopedia, also because I could use internal links for referencing (external links have the disadvantage of being less secure).

- The update I wanted to perform today is because I found some "Wikipedia:" articles where "importance" and "relevance" are better defined (so basicly I was going to cut the remark immediately following the citation, or rewrite it) - and I was going to try to make the whole thing more understandable, because I thought I hadn't succeeded yet the double goal described above.

Kop, does this give the clarification you asked about? And of course, I'd be interested to know, whether after these clarifications you think yes or no something like this should be included in the article?

--Francis Schonken 08:15, 5 Sep 2004 (UTC)


Nothing wrong with using Wikipedia as an example, or the GDFL, so long as the points explain something about copyleft. Comments specific to Wikipedia or the GDFL are best made on their respective pages. For instance, being supportive of Wikipedia contributors would seem to have little to do with copyleft. It's all in the language, maybe there's a way to make such a connection clear. Don't let me stop you adding this back to the article and trying again. This entire article is hard to work with as it's not particularly focused nor are the sentences tight. When it's hard to tell what a sentence means, it's even harder to tell how it relates to the topic addressed by it's paragraph. Fewer words ==> more clear and punchy. Writing good sentences is hard. -- kop 20:00, 5 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The unique object example[edit]

Someone inserted the following in the "Art — documents" section, after the paragraph with the (fictional) "Andy Warhol painting" example:

I am not sure this is really a good example and I am not sure the above assertion re hassle-free and cheap copying holds.
It may not be possible to have a "full copyleft" on an "item which you do not own". This of course, could just boil down to endless arguments about definitions.
Let's assume though that somehow you can have a "full copyleft" on an item which someone else owns. So, I hang the painting above. On a wall. I arrange things so it is physically impossible to come near or touch the painting. What cant you do? Make the best copies you can. If this means hiring an expensive professional art impersonator, so be it. Nothing in the copyleft definition talks of low priced copies. Make derivative works. Photographs, videos, etc.
In the cases we are used to, do you ever have access to the creator's original? Doesn't the creator keep his originals and make and hand out copies? Don't you basically excercise your copyleft rights on copies?


  1. "hassle-free and cheap copying", e.g. Linus Torvalds alludes to this in one of his interviews (will try to find out which one) - I think LT is an accepted "authority" to make assertions about the nature of "copyleft". Note that the paragraph with this example is primarily intended to make people help understand why most copyleft licences applied to Arts MAKE THIS DIFFERENCE between the original and the copies (they do, go ask Creative Commons, etc, if you think they shouldn't, but as long as they do an example clarifying what this is about is in its place in the copyleft article)
  2. "ownership" vs "having full copyleft access": since "copyleft" usually hinges on "copyright" laws (which make difference between "ownership" of an item, and ownership of the "Intellectual Rights", hey, that's why it's called a "licence"), copyleft, unavoidably, has the same distinction: a painting could e.g. be state-owned, which means it is owned by all citizens of that state - if the "unique object" is copylefted by the owner (the state), that means that all citizens (none of which are "fully owning" the painting, but all could be made "full copyleft licensee" by the license conditions) can go ahead with peinture brulée etc, without "legal" impediment. "Making the original unreachable" is not the issue, that is just like publishing compiled code without making the "source code" available, and thus shortcutting the "full copyleft".
  3. Well whatever reasoning you make, there is a difference between "arts" and "software": "professional art impersonator" (who needs artistic talent) vs. programmer (who is rather helped by engineering skills) remains even a difference in your modified example.
  4. "In the cases we are used to, do you ever have access to the creator's original?" - Here you make several logical errors: well, the "original" of what I'm typing right now will be in a database on the other side of the ocean less than a few seconds after I click the "submit" button; the "draft" of that original (which still might reside some time in the cache of the computer I'm typing this on) will soon be annihilated, so there is truly only ONE original to which you (whoever reads this) has access. So, for wikipedia the "copyleft rights" are exerced on the original. See the bottom section of my user page, elaborating on this. Another logical error you make is that in order to build the argument in the last paragraph of your comment above, you need to imply that "hassle-free and cheap copying" is available, which is *exactly* the difficulty in plastic arts (especially the 3D-ones, and the ones involving more than can be easily "digitally photographed")... QED. To draw the attention to that issue of the "difference in practicality" when applying the copyleft idea was the chief intention of the example. --Francis Schonken 10:04, 22 May 2005 (UTC)

First sentence (Copyleft short definition, before the start of the article)[edit]

It doesn't make any sense as it stands now. Can someone fix this?! - Ta bu shi da yu 01:15, 18 Sep 2004 (UTC)

It makes sense to me, but it is very heavy. Maybe it would be better to start on a lighter note, like telling it is a pun on copyright? Per Abrahamsen 08:21, 2004 Sep 18 (UTC)
  • (Francis Schonken 09:18, 24 Sep 2004 (UTC):) I intend to make a few minor adjustments to the initial definition of copyleft. Also I will insert an unvisible HTML comment in the "edit" mode of the article inviting people to come here to discuss the definition, before changing it for the nth time. The copyleft definition of the initial paragraph looks pretty good to me as it is now, I propose only following minor adjustments:
    • "...copyleft is a pun": I think today copyleft is so much more than a pun: I propose to change to: "...copyleft started out as a pun..."
    • second sentence of first paragraph should be in my view still be a bit more neutral. I refer to wikipedia:the perfect article, where it is advised to make the initial definition as short and neutral as possible, while all different approaches to the initial concept can be treated further in the article (applying "space and balance" as explained in the wikipedia:NPOV tutorial). Well, copyright law in general exists in order to restrict the right to make copies of a particular work IS ideological. In the case of Paganini copyright law was an IMPROVEMENT while it extended the right to make copies of a particular work. I could elaborate that as one example out of many (just ask me!), the only thing I want to say is that the use of the word restrict in the initial paragraph as it is now is tendentious (POV if you like), which makes it perfectly eligible to be treated in the "ideological debate" section, but not in the initial definition. Don't know yet exactly how to work around this in the short definition, but I'll try (and return here if it doesn't work).
copyleft is not a neutral term, and cannot in itself be described in the neutral pov. The best you can do is to make the pov explicit. "The proponents of copyleft see copyright primarily as a mean to restrict copying, thus" Per Abrahamsen
    • (Francis Schonken 10:01, 24 Sep 2004 (UTC)): had to perform another adjustment: the definition was not correct, while it was a definition of "open source" (software) in general, not the definition of what is specifically added to that by copyleft (so it appeared not to be a definition of copyleft at all). Sorry guys, copyleft is a non-trivial concept: for me all the other "importance" of Wikipedia (however important!) is minor compared to producing a definition of copyleft that is as well understandable by any non-specialised person, as that it is neutral and short, and of course: undebatably correct.

I removed the reference to other kinds of IPR from the initial paragraph, it was premature (the origin of the term was certainly only about copyright, even if other people have extended it later) and slightly provocative, given that RMS does not recognise IP as a useful concept (it includes too diverse concept for his taste). I also reorganized the difinition so we only have one user. I believe copyleft is a very trivial concept, and if the first paragraph does not give that impression, it is not formulated good enough. Oh, and I made the pov on copyright explicit as FC pointed out. Per Abrahamsen 09:04, 2004 Sep 27 (UTC)

(more ideas added by Francis Schonken 10:43, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC):)

  • I corrected a small typo in the initial paragraph as it stands now ("way restrict" -> "way to restrict").
  • "copyleft (...) cannot in itself be described in the neutral pov": Well, if that were true it should not be in Wikipedia at all according to present importance guidelines. The whole Wikipedia philosophy somewhere hinges on the idea that however "POV" an idea is, it can be described in a NPOV way. Also: my point was not that a completely, and forever "Amen", NPOV short definition of copyleft is possible, only that I want to co-operate to come as near as possible to a NPOV definition of copyleft that is suitable (and relatively stable) for the present day.
  • "...given that RMS does not recognise IP as a useful concept": Richard M. Stallman deserves all possible credits for putting the idea of copyleft on the world map, but nonetheless he does not own the concept of copyleft: even if he and/or FSF would own URL's like or whatever, it would be entirely against Stallman's own philosophy to say he owned the concept. And even if he owned the concept, there is a distinct Wikipedia guideline telling to avoid controversy over content of wikipedia articles by considering that no faction owns the content of a wikipedia article: so even if Stallman would own the copyleft concept, he is in no way the exclusive owner of the wikipedia article describing that concept. Or, to put the same thing otherwise, using an analogy: Richard Stallman's baby has grown up, and it proves to be a rebellious teenager by now. In wikipedia the abbreviation of "Richard M. Stallman's point of view" becomes "RMS's POV", i.e., according to the NPOV tutorial, a POV that has every right to be in wikipedia, be it in balance with other POV's (if there are any).
  • Well, there are other POV's, notably:
    • Linus Torvalds' POV, e.g. describing the non-copylefted BSD not as something "bad", but as "something different from what we try to do"; and replying to someone sharing some ideas about not getting wiser from RMS's replies on a copyright issue: "I can feel the pain", further explaining he is entirely happy with GPL as a copyleft licence, but further does not want to have to do anything with RMS (if he can avoid it).
    • The Share-alike POV: which is a slightly different view on copyleft than the RMS/FSF "official" view (i.e. Creative Commons defines some things as copyleft, which would never pass as copyleft in RMS's eyes).
    • Godfried-Willem Raes' POV, who in the copyleft section of the website on the concert organisation he owns describes his idea that copyleft is the same as doing away with copyright altogether...
    • etc...
  • Frankly, I don't care all that much what RMS thinks about IP in general: I only look around me and see copyleft is used as a concept in the discussion in the European Union about the new patent law, etc... But please do note I wouldn't object a bit to have a mentioning of Stallman's view on IP in the "ideological debate" section of the article.
  • Giving my view on the question whether or not the "initial short definition" of copyleft should hint at the history of how the concept became notable: in my view this is not necessesary if a more understandable & correct definition can be given without referring to those historical issues (these historical references also kind of have a limiting effect on the short definition: all attempts I tried myself to make a definition based on this turned out to be either limiting the copyleft concept too much to software, and/or too lengthy and complicated - at least unintelligble at first reading for a not predisposed encyclopedia reader -, and/or too entangled in the ideological issues from the outset of the article, etc...). Note that there is already a fairly elaborate section about these historical issues in the article itself.
  • Giving my view on whether or not "IP" can be used in the initial definition: I think "IP" can be used in the short, initial definition of copyleft, if that is useful for a bold and neutral definition; but please do note my own propositions were to use Intellectual rights, which in wikipedia is a different article than the IPR/IP/Intellectual property article - IR refers more to the 19th century discussion when the decisions were taken whether or not to separate "copyright" from other, already existing, Intellectual rights like patents. The IR article also more hints at "unwaiverable obligations" in the European view on IP/IR related matters: this concept of "unwaiverable obligations" is useful in defining copyleft, that also starts from an "unwaiverable obligation", namely the obligation to use the same license when publishing a derivative work (IP is more concentrated on being "owner", confusing with the idea that one can do as one pleases with what one owns - which is not the case in general with IP, but that takes a lot more explaining to do).
  • Replying to "The proponents of copyleft see copyright primarily as a mean to restrict copying,...": well I am a proponent of copyleft, but I don't see copyright primarily as a means to restrict copying. I rather see traditional copyrighting as an alternate system, with its advantages and disadvantages. So do many other proponents of copyleft: e.g. when their name is Linus, or in other cases, when they don't have a problem earning money with a job that creates IP for their company (without them owning any of that IP). In fact I put considerable thinking in how it could be made possible that someone who is e.g. a computer programmer or an artist, and has an ideological problem with producing any of this kind of non-copylefted IP, could make a decent living for himself in a strict copyleft approach for everything he produces (both in intent and in legal correctness). That's when I decided to start the "commercial exploitation" subsection, now at the bottom of the copyleft article.

Intro change[edit]

I changed the first line of the intro to be something hopefully more relevent and closer to a definition of copyleft, giving some useful context before we digress in the second sentence. I did read the warning comment, but I'm hoping there is no objection to this change. Deco 02:38, 12 Nov 2004 (UTC)

earlier reference to Open Source?[edit]

I note that there was some discussion earlier on about technical differences between open source and other types of software, but as a newcomer, reading this article for the first time I was thinking "Why isn't there a link to the "Open Source" page for ages until I eventually found it in section 4.

My feeling is that there should be a mention and a link to "Open Source" much earlier in the article, somewhere in the intro, before we get into all the technical details of where the term "copyleft" comes from and what kind of things it can apply to. PaulHammond 13:57, 3 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Hi Paul,

I suppose the approach in this article has to do with:

  • "copyleft" being broader than "a type of software". Copyleft can apply to a variety of things like "art", "wikipedia content", etc... "Open Source", on the other hand, is rather used to designate software exclusively (ever seen the "source code" of an MP3?).
  • "Open Source Software" only partially overlaps with "copylefted software" (many "Open Source" licenses are not "copyleft").
  • Richard Stallman and FSF, who put copyleft as an idea on the world map, prefer speaking about "free software", explaining "free as in freedom", instead of using the term "Open Source" software (which they abhorr).
  • "Open Source" software was, I think, not all that used as a term when FSF/Richard Stallman produced their first copyleft licenses (so it is missing from section 2, describing the origin of "copyleft").
  • "Open Source Software" was particularily promoted from around the turn of the century on by Eric Raymond (and others) that wanted to abandon the idea of copyleft being the exclusive or preferable way to produce OSS.

Either way, although "Open Source" and "Copyleft" are often loosely used as synonyms, the links between the two concepts are sparser (and with more tension) than is generally perceived.

I don't know whether this answers what you were asking about, if not, just ask more (or try to improve the article where you think fit).

--Francis Schonken 01:55, 27 Jan 2005 (UTC)

PS: some of this is discussed in Free/Libre Open Source Software too - maybe that's more the article you were looking for (centers on software). Note that that article might benefit from an update too! (e.g. "Libre Software" was - for some time - a separate European episode, not bound by the Free Software movement - so "FOSS" only became "FLOSS" when the "Libre" movement was taken up too) --Francis Schonken 12:56, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Advertising under "See Also"?[edit]

Why is Creative Commons listed under "See Also"? This does not directly relate to copyleft at all, and is more like an advertisement for the Creative Commons than anything else (and it certainly does not fit in with the other links there). If you object feel free to change it back, but I'm going to take a bushwhacker to it right now.

And now that I look at it, the same goes for "Magnatune". Let's keep the advertising out, please. -- mjk

I put CC and Magnatune back in. They are both orgs that promote and use copyleft licenses, and are in the external links section. MikeCapone 08:39, 28 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Just because they promote and use copyleft licenses does not make them relevent to the discussion of what copyleft is (the whole point of the article). If we're putting them under the "See also" links, I suppose that means that we should be putting links to every organization that promotes and uses copyleft licenses under the "See also" links as well, right? --mjk
No, just the really really famous ones — like Creative Commons. They've become nearly as well-known as the FSF of late. Magnatune is less well-known, but more remarkable here for being the best-known company applying copyleft ideas to a the medium of music. Take a look at these Google News searches:
I think they should stay. Deco 06:23, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Agree.SR - RE

Compatibility graph[edit]

A compatibility graph for copyleft licenses would be awesome; right now it's so difficult to tell if you can relicense a work under another copyleft license. - McCart42 (talk) 03:39, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

Political left/right?[edit]

I've always sort of wondered if someone intended the term "copyleft" to indicate a politically left-wing idea. The GPL never struck me as of left-wing inspiration; more libertarian than anything. But I could see someone who identified with the "libertarian left" as coming up with the name.

If this is not the case (and nothing in the article suggests it is the case), then would it be reasonable to add a sentence explicitly disclaiming the connection? I have to admit I don't know how you'd source it. --Trovatore 18:20, 26 September 2005 (UTC)

It is the first time I have heard the left in copyleft associated with the left in left-wing politics. Which indicate that maybe we won't need to mention the lack of an association explicitly, the idea doesn't come up often. However, if you read the GNU manifesto you will find that inspiration for the copyleft is socialist in nature (cooperation is better than competition). That the same license also happens to find fertile ground among libertarians is a happy accident.--Per Abrahamsen 16:05, 17 October 2005 (UTC)
It is more than just a happy coincidence. The liberty free software protects is the same wether you are a social liberal or an economic liberal ( see the article on liberalism ). Thus it shouldn't be a surprise that free software finds support among liberals from both right and left. So well, I would argue that it is not really a matter of wether you are economically left or right wing, but rather wether you are socially liberal or conservative. Or in other words: "Free software is a matter of liberty, not price. Think of free as in ``free speech, not ``free beer." 02:52, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

This book is all about the politics of copyleft, its history and what its influences are - e.g. free speech movement, communitarianism etc. (talk) 20:56, 22 April 2009 (UTC)

Copyleft and stupidity[edit]

a "copyleft" license is not a concept made up by ESR or the open source community. Infact, quite the opposite. The name is however an obvious one coined by a particular stoner hippy with the initials "ESR". For this matter, they have no right to claim credit for inventing the concept. newspapers have done that for centuries. they buy articles from other papers and circulate them with the attached copyright. but anyways, I find it absolutely annoying that people say a term is accepted in the community simply by its use. People quote other people all the time but that does not mean they accept the term. And just because someone already has fame doesn't make everything they do or say famous automatically.

Very unencyclopedic.Fsdfs 09:38, 17 October 2005 (UTC)

Eh, what are you talking about? The only part of your rant I can understand is the claim that ESR coined the term copyleft, which is false. --Per Abrahamsen 16:30, 17 October 2005 (UTC)

This article needs a lot of work, no?[edit]

I see that there are disputes between some of the people working on this, but this article neeeds a lot of work. So I'll try to be bold. I'll try to explain my edits here. I will try to reduce the size of the article. This will not be difficult since there is a lot of redundant information in this article. I'll try to stay as uncontroversial as possible by deleting content that (a) belongs in anther article, (b) exists in the article it belongs in, and (c) the version that's in the right article is of higher quality. Criticisms and questions about my edits are sought. Gronky 17:20, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

When I'm finished (or after a while) I'll attach links from each of my explanations here to the diffs of my change so that what I'm doing is transparent. This section of the Talk page will become long, but in the end it should be moved to an archive. Gronky 17:28, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

As much as you'd like to pretend the OSS and FSS movements are the same, they really aren't. They have different philosophies and there's a very clear and obvious trends towards choosing BSD liek vs. copyleft licenses. Please stop editing all the various F/OSS articles to make them out to be the same, not only is it inaccuarte, you're giving reader the completely wrong idea of what's going on. I reinserted a rewritten form of the LGPL stuff too, because it was actually correct and its information wasn't duplicated elsehwere in the article, you basically just whitewashed it by deleting it entirely. Nathan J. Yoder 22:49, 28 October 2005 (UTC)
Nathan, after Talk:Richard_Stallman, Talk:Open-source software, Talk:Alternative terms for free software, and Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Alternative_terms_for_free_software, I will not again allow my time to be consumed with answering all your questions and defending myself against all your allegations.
However, I do want to continue working on Wikipedia. One solution is for me to not disagree with you. This is not an optimal solution for Wikipedia, but since I have neither the energy, the time, or the stress tolerance to deal with another confrontation with you, for here and for now, that is what I will try to do.
If I do make any edits that could be seen as reverting a modification by you, I will explain my reasoning in my edit summary. If you reject that reasoning, just revert my edit - I will not be part of any revert wars.
I feel you have unfairly criticised me and my editting in your above comment, but because I am familiar with how time-consuming, energy-consuming, stressful, and fruitless any such discussion would be, I am unwilling to begin defending myself here against your accusations. I hope to meet any further unfair criticism from you with the same calmness and non-encouragement. Gronky 03:33, 29 October 2005 (UTC)

Removed the public domain paragraph[edit]

Most of the information in this paragraph was inncorrect anyway. If there's no link elsewhere in the article, I'll look for somewhere to slot in a mention of the public domain link. Gronky 17:22, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

Removed incorrect info on FS / OSS[edit]

The section "Copylefted and non-copylefted open source software" contained an incorrect description of the split between FS and OSS, plus a incorrect explantion of what happens when someone violates copyright. Gronky 17:28, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

Gave the Linus Torvalds section a title[edit]

The "Introduction" section was mostly about Linus Torvalds' comments on copyleft. I've put that section at the bottom of the page since, while he's the project manager and lead developer of a core package of the operating system, he didn't invent the term, the concept, the license - he just used the license, like many others did. The Linus Torvalds section should probably be renamed to allow quotes from other people too ...but then it's content would be fit for Wikipedia's sister project, Wikiquote, instead. Gronky 17:47, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

It looked completely unencyclopedic to me. I also agree with Gronky's sentiments. If people want to retrieve the quote and place it at WikiQuote, then visit a revision from yesterday. -- 13:59, 8 December 2005 (UTC)

Removed LGPL section[edit]

There was a paragrapha about the LGPL, but it was full of vague statements, and incorrect statements. I was planning to just move it to a more appropriate section (the weak vs strong section, where the LGPL is already mentioned) but after I trimmed the incorrect and duplicate bits, it was al gone. Gronky 17:59, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

No legal cases, why?[edit]

I was just assuring my university student wife that copyleft had already been tested in court and validated a few times, and I went to the wikipedia to back up my claim.

Imagine my surprise when absolutely no court cases or legal decisions were referenced or even linked to! How can a concept so firmly based in law be completely divorced from the law in its description? IANAL, but it seems like a serious shortcoming to me. I'd like to see:

  • Current legal status in certain countries (USA, Finland, any other notables)
  • Legal precedents set by copyleft
  • Ongoing legal battles

you get the idea... Steve Rapaport 19:13, 13 December 2005 (UTC)

Copyleft has never been tried in court, ever. There is no precedent. It may not even be possible to uphold it in court. Copyright law is regularly applied in copyright violation disputes, but so far violation of free licenses has been avoided only to be careful, on the theory that it might be enforcable. Part of the reason for this might be that usually only individuals release material under copyleft, and it's a rare individual who can afford to make a case against a corporation or other large violator. It's also difficult to acquire sufficient evidence to file suit when most corporate activity is conducted behind the curtains of trade secrets and non-disclosure. Deco 19:49, 13 December 2005 (UTC)
It's been violated frequently... It is just that everyone backed down and mended their ways or settled. I think I heard of one German case where the GPL was upheld, but I don't remember the exact case, and that would be Germnay anyway. --Maru (talk) Contribs 19:52, 13 December 2005 (UTC)
The FSF believe in using legal action only as an absolutely last resort, when all other options for assuring compliance has been tried. It is a viewpoint that may be anti-American, but it seem natural to me (a Dane). This has probably influenced other owners of GPL'ed code, to also seek other resolutions before going to court.
The GPL was part of a MySQL case (with FSF as expect witness), I don't know the details of the case.--Per Abrahamsen 17:43, 22 December 2005 (UTC)

Section copied from pro-copyleft web site[edit]

Commercialization of copylefted art is essentially a copy of EFF: Making P2P Pay Artists, as mentioned by the article. I hope EFF copylefts their text. I wouldn't want there to be a copyright dispute over copyleft! Some of the text is somewhat unencyclopedic, for example It sounds obvious. Andjam 13:47, 7 January 2006 (UTC)

The question is less about copyleft, and more about whether the EFF put their Web site materials in the public domain, or if EFF--or someone affiliated with EFF who is authorized to do so--submitted the material themselves. See Wikipedia:Copyrights.
I propose we delete most if not all of the section in question to a bare minimum to avoid a dispute over copyright or POV. -- 16:59, 7 January 2006 (UTC)

Multiple clarifying edits[edit]

'Fraid I think this article is awful. No way it should be a "featured article" in this state. I've spent an hour trying to make sense of it, and 2 more hours editing. It's very hard to understand. I'm going to try to deal with some of the grammar first. The result, in some cases, may be that the resulting prose no longer has the meaning its author intended. I hope that they will restore the intended meaning, rather than just revert my clarifying change.

1. Minor change to first para.

2. Stallman's GPL did not make anything possible that was not already possible. For example, someone else could have invented a similar licence.

3. Paragraph before "methods for copylefting" - I've tried to remove some ambiguity. I don't know if the resulting prose is /true/. Is it correct that the original GPL didn't "grant rights to the public at large"? Did the "This" actually refer to the original GPL, or to the GPL in general, or to some other action or creation of Stallman's? Perhaps this attempt at disambiguation will provoke someone into attending to the facts, if I my change has rendered the text incorrect.

4. Simplify language in "methods for copyrighting".

5. Simplify language in "these three freedoms".

6. "Other (additional or understood)licence conditions" - in what licence? This para's meaning is unclear, and I'm redrafting it. What doesx it mean to "guarantee the compilation of source code"?

7. "Definitional problems" - I think a de-facto standard is only a meaningful notion in a context where standards themselves are meaningful. Clause deleted.

8. Spelling. I wanted to go over the whole article, and impose consistency on the use of the variants "licence" and "license", in accordance with OED recommendations. Licence is the noun, license is the verb. However this may be an Atlantic problem, and I haven't done it. Is "license" the correct noun-form in american spelling? Does "licence" simply not occur as a word in american dictionaries?

9. "Strong and weak copyleft" - attempted to clean up the english, I hope I didn't destroy the meaning.

10. "While copyleft is not a term in law" - I tried to fix this as a minor edit. However this para seems to be the result of merging several people's prose on different subjects, and the result is still a mess.

11. Is it correct to say that the use of copyleft in industry is restricted to internal use? Software that is written for internal use isn't usually licensed at all, surely. I disambiguated, but I left this clause in place.

12. "[Code reuse]" - I butchered this paragraph. It stated the aims of software enginering badly, the reasoning linking copyleft to re-use was weak, and "is often cited" should be acompanied by a reference.

13. Deleted 2 paras starting with "some opponents of copyleft say". The attributed claim is so weak as to not be worth defending - if reinstated, the claim should be made stronger, so that at least there is something to defend. There's been at least one call to shorten the article, perhaps this helps.

14. Deleted 2 paras starting with "Note that the notion of copyleft". The argument in these paras is confusing, particularly since it seems to depend on the idea that a work that is a "unique object" is somehow intrinsically immune to abusive copyright violation. Also nobody has put forward the claim that copyleft solves all IP problems. It's all too vague.

15. "Copyleft licences for art" - First sentence (6-7 lines) removed, leaving the "in other words" sentence. If that doesn't summarise the deleted matter, then it was wrong in the first place. What remains seems to not be worth saying, but others may disagree.

16. Copyright/left isn't to do with "understandings". Violations are violations. If the licence requires attribution, non-attribution is a violation.

I'm giving up now. I've spent 2 hours on this, and I'm less than half way through. I don't have a clue if these changes will all just promptly be reverted. All of these changes have been aimed at clarifying and strengthening. The result may be worse than the original, in terms of what it says, hopefully because this process of clarification has exposed errors that were present before.

I'll come back to this work later, if these changes meet with approval.

MrDemeanour 12:44, 13 January 2006 (UTC)
Disapprove, if you by "The result, in some cases, may be that the resulting prose no longer has the meaning its author intended." mean you have made deliberate wilful alterations of the earlier author's meaning, as that can only be misleading. Please do not make edits unless you are able to make improvements without destroying existing content - in that case, you are not merely editing, and you are certainly not "clarifying" - you are rewriting! 07:01, 8 June 2007 (UTC)

Deliberate copyleft violation[edit]

Is there a term for a corporatation that deliberately violates a copyleft?--Nowa 10:26, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

There is no term for violating the concept of copyleft by a coporation or individual since there is no legal term, "copyleft". However, violations of specific copyleft licenses are effectively violoations of copyright law, but are called violations of their specific license, like "GPL violations". -- 14:35, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

How about software hoarding?--Nowa 15:54, 1 June 2006 (UTC)
That description is bogus, RMS use the term for all non-free software.--Per Abrahamsen 18:13, 1 June 2006 (UTC)
I'm afraid I don't understand your point. Could you elaborate?--Nowa 20:34, 3 June 2006 (UTC)

Help Please[edit]

I am trying to understand this copyleft thing, and I don't get it. I read the whole article. Can someone give me a basic overview what the difference between copyright and copyleft is? Thanks in advance! ~Andy Blak 20:47, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

A copyright is the right (as in right granted by a government) of an author to prevent a third party from copying their original work without a license. Most licenses demand a payment of money in order for a third party to have permission to copy a given original work (such as computer source code). Hence there is the perception that copyrights restrict copying.
There is a community of software programers, however, are more interested in having access to improvements in their software than they are in a payment of money. Furthermore, they would like to see their source code widely distributed. Hence they have used their copyright in an counterintuitive manner. They grant permission to copy their source code provided that any third parties that copy it and improve it, make the improvements available for copying under the same conditions. Special purpose license agreements have been developed which encourage this. They are called "copylefts". "Left" (as in left hand) is an pun (in English) on "right" (as in goverment granted right and as in right hand). It indicates that the license agreement is used very different manner (left hand vs right hand) than the typical copyright license.
Does this help?--Nowa 00:21, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Yes thank you! So most linux forms are copy left then? ~Andy Blak 00:47, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
I don't know. I'll let someone else address.--Nowa 13:47, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

I am similarly confused about copyleft. I'm attracted to it, since I have observed myself becoming ever more liberal in recent years. But I am holding back on using it for what I think is a very important reason (but hopefully I am wrong).

I won't be specific about my projects, but some could be copyrightable and others might even be patentable. I am not interested in directly making money out of my projects anymore, but would still like the recognition of authorship. If I could be sure that I would retain authorship recognition, I would publish my work. I am concerned that releasing work into the public domain with copyleft tactics, would not prevent somebody else snapping up the copyright for themselves, or at least attempting to.

Is my reason as good as I think it is? I have read in this article about copyleft not being an accepted legal term, and that court cases have not occurred (yet). I used to want to copyright my work, but have never been completely satisfied with any of the suggested methods of achieving it. I would like my works to be shared freely and possibly even editted, but I need to be sure that with a copyleft declaration, nobody else will be tempted to claim copyright for themselves. Am I needlessly paranoid?

Finally, is a copyleft declaration, a declaration that the author waives any claim of copyright, allowing somebody else the legal right to claim it? Suppose somebody was to be taken to court for generating revenue from somebody elses copylefted work, assuming that the judge won't be interested in non-legal copyleft and knowing that the defence has the earliest claim of copyright. Would it be impossible to prosecute, since one would have to provide evidence of earlier copyright, not earlier copyleft. Is that correct? Could the copyrighting non-author prosecute the copylefting author of publishing their own work? I'm quite confused. Tomid 17:28, 21 June 2006 (UTC)

The above conversation answers all your questions if you read it carefully. "Copyleft" is a specific form of a copyright claim, it is not itself a legal term but rather a clever play on words to describe the concept of using copyright law to ensure that derivative works remain equally as available for copying and modifying as the original work on which it was based as opposed to the usual use of copyrights to restrict redistribution of a given work or derivatives thereof. Whether this is "a good thing" or not is depends on your POV. It's worth noting that not all Open Source licenses force derivative works to be equally as open as the work on which it was based, only that the original source work remain freely available. If you distribute software under a copyleft license that is nothing like distributing works into the public domain as those works forfeit any any and all claims of copyright and can be used, without restriction, by anyone in any way. For example "The Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum has been in the public domain since 1956 so, technically, I could rewrite it word-for-word and distribute it under my name as author (and even copyright my derivative work) and, although it would be pretty unethical to pass the work off as my own, it would be completely legal. Most (if not all) "copyleft" licenses require the attribution present in the license remain as such if only so that there is a claimant on the original copyright so as to be enforceable (as you can't have a copyright if there isn't someone or some group to assign the copyright to). Anyone distributing a "copyleft" work is required to distribute it under the same license which would includes keeping the original author's (or authors') copyright claim in the license as well including their own claim on the modifications present in the derivative work. On a final note, you are allowed to charge for distributing copylefted works (modified or unmodified), you don't get dragged into court simple for charging people to distribute copylefted software. However, upon distributing those works, all rights and privileges to copy, modify, and distribute that work must be extended to the recipient, so, practically speaking, charging for distribution is only used to cover the costs of distributing physical media. "Copyleft" license are only violated if the party distributing the work does so in a manner that is not compliant terms of the original license (e.g. not making available the source code of the derivative work) which could lead to the distributor of the derivative work being sued by the copyright holder (while copyright infringement is a prosecutable criminal offense that can lead to fines and jail time, copyright violations tend to be more of a civil matter that are settled between the copyright holder and the party accused of violating their copyright). MerlinYoda (talk) 16:29, 10 September 2015 (UTC)

Picayune NitPick[edit]

I know it might be explained correctly elsewhere (I am not sure), but I think that anything that technically is wrong, should be corrected. My focus of attention is on a sentence [fragment] in about the 3rd paragraph of the article. It says, << " the restrictions imposed are that the work cannot be copied, modified or used in any subsequent work unless the author of that subsequent work agrees to grant the same copyleft rights to the public to freely copy, use and modify the subsequent work. " >>.

Why I think this is (false and) misleading: because those restrictions only apply to copies of (the work or) derived works, that the licensee decides to distribute. Not only does the licensee have the option to create a derived work and keep it for private use or enjoyment, (maybe even like a trade secret? getting in over my head... IANAL) but (I think) also, the option to create several derived works, such that some of the derived works are (distributed, and hence) subject to this restriction, and others are not. I understand that I do not need "permission" to edit, but this article is a little bit imposing, and I think that, to a large extent, it would be advisable to avoid duplicating information that is available on the web site. Wikipedia by its nature, tends to be available when other we sites are too -- and the reader could use their own judgment in considering the possible POV considerations, in getting part of their education by reading stuff from a web site that might have some bias. But stuff like this (picayune nitpick, see above) are a good example of something where the web site happens to do a very good job of using language carefully, to talk about what the Gnu GPL (and LGPL) do and do not restrict. Thanks for listening, this has been my 0.02... Mike Schwartz 22:15, 1 July 2006 (UTC)

Ray Johnson[edit]

The artist Ray Johnson may have come up with the idea independently, which would make him a precursor in his own right, but I can't speak to who influenced whom. "Copyleft" appears, albeit briefly, in the 2002 documentary How to Draw a Bunny. Kencf 22:03, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

I'll have to watch that documentary again sometime soon, but the reverse "C" definitely appears as a work of art pertaining to mail art. kencf0618 (talk) 23:49, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

Merging in "Share-alike"[edit]

The Share-alike article has a tag suggesting it be merged into the Copyleft article. The "Share-alike" article is actually about "share-alike copyright license"s, so I think the merge is appropriate. Gronky 13:37, 5 October 2006 (UTC)


I added a short section on patents related to copyleft. I thought it was of interest and somewhat ironic given that copylefts are "anti-patent". I have no commercial interest in the particular examples cited. --Nowa 02:35, 5 April 2007 (UTC)

Good idea putting the patent examples in footnotes. --Nowa 15:08, 5 April 2007 (UTC)
The fact that some patent applications might mention copyleft in the description does not mean they have any relevance to copyleft. You should know that better than most. In any event, the links didn't work properly and when I did find one of the patent applications in question it's relevance seemed even more questionable than even I had expected. GDallimore (Talk) 20:57, 13 April 2007 (UTC)

The scale of added value, and the militarily added value or classifiable added value[edit]

What if the work produced by these "copylefted" material is beyond public domain e.g. classified. Even the outcome of research if ends up with a significant patent, or more, it does not look fare. It gives the impression of a greedy thief communist money-lender claiming uncle Mo is feeding you hence will take whatever you produce. Not that corporate Kapootalistia is lesser thief. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 00:58, 16 April 2007 (UTC).

Yet another unreferenced tractate[edit]

do you think it's worth repairing? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 06:02, 17 April 2007 (UTC).

Copyleft is used by its proponents as a response to the use of copyright law to restrict certain types of intellectual works. The public domain has no copyleft-like protection. Authors who use source code in the public domain can distribute binaries without the source code. If all copyright laws were abolished and no other laws were to take their place, copyleft licenses would be meaningless. As a result, it would become generally lawful for anyone to disassemble and disseminate any publicly available software without legal restriction. However, without any copyright laws, the rights associated with copyrights, e.g., the rights reserved through copyleft, would disappear as well. The absence of copyright protection could still result in denying users access to software.

Material from Permissive and copyleft licences[edit]

The Permissive and copyleft licences article is being merged. The only useful content is in regard to what copyleft is, so it should be merged into this article, but the useful information is padded out with, well, padding, so I'll dump it here for now and we can merge the useful info into the article as we find it. Here it is:

In the free software community, some users and developers prefer permissive free software licences, while others prefer copyleft free software licences. Examples of the former include those of the BSD, Apache, and X11 projects. Examples of the latter are those of the GNU project. Software released under either style of these licence is considered "free", but the licences differ in conditions applying to redistribution. Their relative merits and shortcomings have frequently been the subject of flame wars since the early 1990s when Richard Stallman proposed the GPL.

The main copyleft software licence, the GNU General Public License (GPL) requires that software licensed with it continue to maintain the availability of source code and the FSF's "four freedoms" in perpetuity, and this includes both derivative works and forks of GPL licensed software. The BSD license only requires acknowledging the original authors, and imposes few restrictions on how the source code may be used. As a result, BSD code can be more easily integrated into or released entirely as proprietary software. For instance, parts of Mac OS X (Darwin) and the IP stack in Microsoft Windows (Winsock) are derived from BSD-licensed software.

Code licensed under the BSD license can be relicensed under the GPL (is "GPL-compatible") without securing the consent of all original authors. Code under the GPL cannot be relicensed under the BSD license without securing the consent of all original authors, since the BSD license does not require the source code to be always freely available. The Free Software Foundation provides the GNU Lesser General Public License that differs by having a weaker copyleft clause concerning linking between [LGPL] libraries and non-copyleft (proprietary or permissive) licensed code.

Supporters of the BSD license argue against the copyleft nature of the GPL. They argue that the BSD license is more free than the GPL, because it grants the right to do nearly anything with the source code, second only to software in the public domain, and that the nature of the BSD license has encouraged the inclusion of well-developed standard code into proprietary software. BSD supporters feel that the GPL takes away fundamental rights from the users, forcing them to write their own software for tasks that are covered by GPL software if they wish to redistribute it with a non-GPL-compatible license.

Existing BSD-licensed software distributions tend to avoid including software licensed under the GPL in the core operating system, except as a last resort when alternatives are non-existent or vastly less capable, such as with GCC. The OpenBSD project, for example, has acted to remove GPL-licensed tools in favour of BSD-licensed alternatives, some newly written and some adapted from older code.

GPL supporters believe (and emphasize) that mandating that derivative works should remain GPL-licensed fosters the growth of free software, as developers who use GPL code have to share their improvements with the community [if they want to distribute the derived works]. GPL supporters see the derivative work license requirement as more a form of power than a freedom, [3] and the BSD license as allowing people to "hoard" the work of others selfishly without having to give anything back. The GPL's "freedoms" are strong measures protecting users against the problems created by secret source code: inability to fix, extend, study or defeat technological lock-in - a form of blackmail practised by some proprietary vendors, especially in the presence of a monopoly.

That's it. Gronky 19:26, 3 May 2007 (UTC)

Go Copyleft![edit]

Go Copyleft! Freedom above all! :) —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 09:22, 4 May 2007 (UTC).

Copyleft is the stupidest term of all time. If you have unlimited rights to use something, that is more rights not "the opposite of a right". 'All rights reversed' sounds more like having your rights taken away not being availed to a greater span of rights and allowances. 22:57, 19 May 2007 (UTC)
That's beyond relevance here as it's a widely used term with a definite usage, but in any case, it's evidently a punlike reference to the political left and right, and it accurately opposes the more liberal conceptions (and licensing practices) of groups like the FSF and Linux based businesses to the more "intelectual property" oriented interests of companies and enterprises that in general are clearly more conservative as far as copying rights go. - Who is like God? 08:56, 22 September 2007 (UTC)

history tiny basic needs source[edit]

I removed/rephrased

The term copyleft, according to some sources, came from a message contained in Tiny BASIC, a freely distributed version of BASIC written by Dr. Li-Chen Wang in the late 1970s. The program listing contained the phrases "@COPYLEFT" and "ALL WRONGS RESERVED", puns on "copyright" and "all rights reserved", a phrase commonly used in copyright statements. Richard Stallman himself says the word comes from Don Hopkins, whom he calls a very imaginative fellow, who mailed him a letter in 1984 or 1985 on which was written: "Copyleft—all rights reversed." [4]

Please do not put the tiny basic theory back without a good source. Saying "according to some sources" is a school-book example of what is NOT a good source. Even if you do add it back, please do so after the Don Hopkins theory, which should be considered the main alternative (if only because of its origin) 06:50, 8 June 2007 (UTC)

I added the 1976 history of Copyleft along with an image. -- SWTPC6800 05:07, 23 August 2007 (UTC)


I invented the copywiki as an alternative to the copyleft. Please join Project Copywiki by adding the userbox on your user page. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Nothing444 (talkcontribs) 18:26, 10 February 2008 (UTC)


The following Statement explains exactly the Concept behind Copyleft. So, in your Point of View: "Copyleft" itself might not be neutral, but the Description is.

"In summary: While the copyright only protects the exclusive rights of the originator by excluding all others under penalty, the Copyleft protects the freedom of all others, practically to use copyrighted works as if there were no copyright law at all." —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:53, 6 March 2008 (UTC)

The disagreement over whether copyleft frees or restricts is as old as copyleft itself, and is still unsettled. The BSD/MIT partisans still see copyleft as restricting legitimate uses of programs, while the GPL/FSF partisans see it as protecting the rights of users of the programs. Stating either position as fact is pushing one POV over the other, and we don't do that here at Wikipedia. RossPatterson (talk) 01:22, 6 March 2008 (UTC)
We have to compare two scenarios: How does the practical situation develop with or without Copyright-law. One idea behind copyleft is: How to reestablish conditions (under restrictment of copyright) for regaining the freedom that went lost.

What is the procedure to do a copyleft?[edit]

To do a copyleft - does one first need to do a copyright?

Does one need to register that copyright or just put it to paper?

What should that copyright look like?

Is this the correct form? © 2006 John Doe

What should the form of a copyleft be? Should it be the copyright form (© 2006 John Doe) followed by a copyleft symbol followed by 2006 John Doe?

What else needs to be done to assure that a document is copyleft?

MGJ1942 (talk) 18:06, 19 March 2008 (UTC)

Works are automatically put under copyright in most countries, including USA, without any registration. What is needed is a license that gives people the freedoms of free software/whatever and that doesn't allow the receivers to change the license to something non-free. The GPL comes bundled with instructions to do it properly, but the important thing is to mention the chosen license (you have to pick one or a few specific licenses) in a legally binding way. --LPfi (talk) 12:33, 23 April 2009 (UTC)

Vast amounts of unsourced stuff here, if not sourced soon, needs deleting![edit]

All rights reversed[edit]

I have suggested this article be merged here, given that the term doesn't invoke any new concepts, and while notable in itself, is not a seperate issue to copyleft. - Jimmi Hugh (talk) 17:05, 9 July 2008 (UTC)

If you agree that this term is notable in and of itself, why shouldn't it have its own article? The history of the term intersects an important development of the copyleft movement, yet it has a distinct (counter-)cultural significance, even if only as a curio. ˉˉanetode╦╩ 10:19, 18 August 2008 (UTC)
Notability is only ground for letting the term stay at all... i suggest a merge because the article has little content, can't be expanded upon, and is a foot note in the topic of copyleft. - Jimmi Hugh (talk) 12:51, 31 August 2008 (UTC)
Copyleft's sources are entirely in hacker culture, and is used primarily in FSF/GNU-related circles. All Rights Reversed comes from, and is used by, Discordians almost exclusively. There may be some overlap but they're not similar enough to merge. DenisMoskowitz (talk) 00:33, 1 September 2008 (UTC)
Sources? Your reasoning contradicts the article in question... so try to keep wikipedia in one mind, and make it factual, not whatever you want to say to support your baseless "don't merge" point. Thanks - Jimmi Hugh (talk) 16:10, 1 September 2008 (UTC)
If you're going to tactlessly dismiss the opinions of other editors, please don't bother actually asking for their opinion on the talk page. I'm removing the merger template. ˉˉanetode╦╩ 00:15, 2 September 2008 (UTC)
It wasn't tactless... his comment was that there isn't a strong appropriate link between the two articles. The article in question specific states there is. I'll replace the template, as this isn't a personal thing, anyone on Wikipedia is free to discuss it and your childish handling of the situation is no reason to remove a valid template. - Jimmi Hugh (talk) 01:27, 2 September 2008 (UTC)
Excuse me? You asked for input, two editors offered their opinions against the merger. Then you go on to say "this isn't a personal thing" but that I am handling a situation in a "childish" manner. Let's go over this again: No one is questioning your prerogative to add a merge template and I understand your reason for doing so. However, when other editors explain to you why a merger might not be a good idea, you appear to dismiss their statements completely. Since the merge tag has been up for months and gathered only opposition, it is fair to say that merging content is uncalled for. Removing a merge tag under these circumstances is a reasonable response, your reactions, however, have been quite rude.
I'd like to also reiterate the reasons against the merger. The term "all rights reversed" was used in the 1960s, far before any coherent copyleft/open content movement discussed in this article. If anything, the all rights reversed stub should be discussed in the context of copyright and the legal disclaimer all rights reserved prescribed by the Buenos Aires Convention. The earliest use of the reversed disclaimer is documented in the early editions of the Principia Discordia. Since the document was an obscure satirical text, it was never widely published. What is notable, however, is that the explicit disavowal of copyright allowed numerous independent presses to re-publish the tract without any limitation. Any edition you are likely to find today is the product of substantial editing and collaborative authorship. Hopkins and Stallman borrowed the term from an occult cultural movement and applied it in a different context to a new form of copyright licensing now referred to as copyleft. So, you see, the term is more than a footnote to the copyleft movement, but rather a totally separate influence. ˉˉanetode╦╩ 02:41, 2 September 2008 (UTC)

Open Source before the Internet[edit]

In 1976 an open source movement lead to the creation of BASIC language interpreters for a variety of microprocessor based home computers. This was before the internet (as we know it) was created. The most efficient way to share information was with newsletters and magazines.

Jim C. Warren, a member of the Homebrew Computer Club and the Editor of Dr. Dobb's Journal of Computer Calisthenics & Orthodontia, wrote a letter to an ACM newsletter describing the Tiny Basic Project. It looks a lot like open source projects of today.

Here are a few paragraphs from the two page letter.

The point is that all of this information-systems software, design notes, schematics, etc - is being made available for little more than the cost of reproduction. The Journal came into being, explicitly to aid creation and distribution of that information. In some ways, it creates a sort of manufacturer-independent user's group. it is reasonable to expect that free and inexpensive software will become increasingly available to and through the hobbyists' community. This is true, in spite of the failure of such SHAREing in the business and industrial communities.

Finally, the approach used in producing the Tiny BASICs will be continued and expanded, a sort of modified Chief Programmer Team approach: An experienced pro does the overall design and outlines the implementation strategy (via the Journal and other hobbyist publications). Following those directions, the more experienced amateurs do the necessary hack-work (exciting to them, but drudgery for the "old pro"). Since it is a symbiotic effort, the implementers are almost certain to share their work with the designers, and hence, with the larger community of home computer users.

  • Warren, Jim C. (July 1976). "Correspondence". SIGPLAN Notices. ACM. 11 (7): 1.  Jim Warren, the editor of Dr. Dobbs Journal, responds the Bill Gates's Open Letter to Hobbyists. He describes how the Tiny BASIC project is an alternative to hobbyist "ripping off" software.

SWTPC6800 (talk) 03:16, 23 August 2008 (UTC)

Word play[edit]

Can anyone explain or show me a external link explain what word plays in Copyleft? I don't use English as mother tongue and guess that is the double-meaning of "right" in Copyright, right? Anyway, Wikipedia should explain this in the article. Vinhtantran (talk) 10:02, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Right versus left of course. And the implication that copyleft is "leftist" -- i.e. left wing, politically. Xardox (talk) 20:17, 23 November 2013 (UTC)

Viral licensing[edit]

I have a problem with the references for this section:

Copyleft licenses are sometimes referred to as viral copyright licenses, because any works derived from a copyleft work must themselves be copyleft when distributed. The term "General Public Virus", or "GNU Public Virus" (GPV), has a long history on the Internet, dating back to shortly after the GPL was first conceived.[15][16][17] Many BSD License advocates used the term derisively[18][19][20]

These references are mostly examples of use of the term, which means concluding anything based on these is original research. There is one source that describes the usage, the Jargon File, but what is said there is not what is said in the article.

--LPfi (talk) 19:17, 4 June 2009 (UTC)

The best of those six references is the LinuxWorld article, which is directly about the "viral" issue. The Jargon File, while not a reference for usage, backs up the "long history" claim - the cited version is old enough to vote. The rest of the references are indeed merely examples, though I might argue that a conversation between two old-line BSD guys like Paul Vixie and Rick Adams is notable, even if the report is from one of the participants. RossPatterson (talk) 22:39, 4 June 2009 (UTC)

Copyright is not analogous to copyleft[edit]

Copyleft is a licensing thing, it does not replace copyright. It's more analogous to a proprietary EULA, right? I'd like to point it out in the article, but can't seem to find where to insert it. (talk) 03:04, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

I agree, remove the claim that it is analogous to copyright, however it is not better suited in comparison to "proprietary EULA", as a copyleft agreement can be a "proprietary" license agreement. Infact, last time I checked, the GNU GPL was still a proprietary EULA and they're the only ones using the term incorrectly enough to state otherwise. - Jimmi Hugh (talk) 08:51, 27 July 2009 (UTC)
Very late reply here, but copyleft bears no resemblance whatsoever to an EULA (End User License Agreement), since it doesn't apply to mere users. A copyleft is a distribution license, not a use license. The GPL, for example, explicitly states that accepting the license is not required to use the work. If you don't accept the license, normal copyright rules apply. If a copyleft is analogous to anything, it would be to the licenses that OEMs like Dell have with companies like Microsoft, not to anything that an end user need be concerned with. Xtifr tälk 06:19, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

The COPYLEFT SIGN in Unicode[edit]

It's not in Unicode, and some years ago was rejected for a number of reasons, one of which was that it could not be found in use in text. Has this changed? Perhaps it is time to encode it. -- Evertype· 07:33, 22 August 2009 (UTC)

I take it that this means no one cares that it is not encoded. -- Evertype· 10:15, 8 October 2009 (UTC)
U+0186 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER OPEN O followed by U+20DD COMBINING ENCLOSING CIRCLE gives something similar to the copyleft. Problem : the rarity of the fonts with a U+20DD. Ɔ⃝. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Tohuvabohuo (talkcontribs) 05:45, 4 July 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Has anyone found it printed in an actual book yet? It'll not get into Unicode otherwise. -- Evertype· 13:15, 1 December 2012 (UTC)


Maybe it will useful in such countries as USA File:Http:// pirate.jpg — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:54, 3 February 2012 (UTC)

BSD license = implicite copyleft?[edit]

All BSD licences require not only the attribution to the author(s) but also the list of conditions to be included (this is in contrast to the statement in the article that the BSD licences allow redistributions to be stripped-off some of their conditions; this statement should therefore be questioned as well). This, however, only makes sense if these conditions (i.e. the two to four clauses, depending on the actual BSD licence variant) remain force. To me this sounds like a variant of copyleft, since the requirement of retaining the original conditions is the main criterion of a copyleft license. However, BSD is not viral and does not require the sourcecode to be given away, but it is still comparable to the CC share-alike licences (which require the same conditions for copies and derivative work, but not for collections, and also does not require free access to source or master files etc.). So why isn't BSD officially considered copyleft? Where is the big difference?--~~ — Preceding unsigned comment added by SiriusB (talkcontribs) 13:45, 13 March 2012 (UTC)

You seem to be mis-interpreting the concept of "copyleft". Straight from the FSF: "Copyleft is a general method for making a program (or other work) free, and requiring all modified and extended versions of the program to be free as well.", in other words, it means "copylefted" code can't be used in closed-source programs. If you modify a copylefted program and distribute copies of that, the you MUST distribute the source (among other requirements), otherwise you are violating the original license. --SF007 (talk) 14:48, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
Copyleft licenses require that derivative works be placed under the same license. BSD does not require that derivative works be under the same license, it is therefore not a copyleft license. CC SA requires that derivatives be placed under SA, it is therefore a copyleft license. The fact that SA does not require that collections (which are not derivatives) be placed under the same license does not prevent it being a copyleft license; the GPL doesn't cover collections either. Rob Myers (talk) 15:30, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
You seem to misunderstand me: As far as I interpret both the English and the German WP article, copyleft does not necessarily require the sourcecodes to be made available as well. However, Open Source is the only useful way to implement a Copyleft license to software in my opinion, but e.q. CC-BY-SA is also said to be copyleft, although it covers types of works where nothing like a "source code" does exist. I further disagree with your statement that BSD doesn't require the same license to be used for derivative work. The first two clauses require the copyright notice and the list of conditions to be retained for redistribution of copies and modified versions.
In my opinion, this is equivalent to a weak, non-open-souce Copyleft, because this requirement does only make sense if these conditions are still in force and not just citations. In other words, retaining the list of conditions for any redistributed modification just means that the same license has actually to be used for it (but binaries may be distributed alone). Please explain: When I retrieve a BSD-licensed code, how could I put it under a different license without violating the BSD license?
Additional note: The GPL does not explicitely cover collections, but as far as I understand, collections of e.g. pictures may be something like a website (e.g. Wikimedia Commons), a PowerPoint presentation or any other arrangement, where CC-BY-SA-licensed pictures are contained in a larger document, while software libraries might be an analog to such a collection in terms of the GPL, where its viral effect indeed requires even the linked software to be released under the GPL. I.e. if the content is linked by some piece of software (a HTML page, PPT or LaTeX document in case of CC pictures, or the links to a software library in case of the GPL). Therefore, the GPL appears to be much stronger than CC-BY-SA which seems to be a "light" copyleft just like the implicite copyleft I see in the BSD licenses, i.e. only relevant for the work itself but not to any "linked" content.--SiriusB (talk) 16:23, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
BSD licenses do not require the modifications in a modified work to be under the same license as the original work. What this mean is if you have a work A under one of the 3 BSD licenses, and then add some modifications lets call it B, then B can be under a second license (like a proprietary software license). When you distributive the new work AB, the A part will be under BSD, and the B part will be under the second license. If A had been under a copyleft license, then the combined work AB would had to be under the same license. As for copyleft, licenses like the GPL require source code to be released if you distributive the software. CC-BY-SA do not have any requirements for the release of source code which is why I suspect the author of Creative Commons (Lawrence Lessig) has officially recommended GPL for software and not CC-BY-SA. Belorn (talk) 21:51, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
I am thinking of the case that the modification B is not a complete additional program routine or something like that, but that it is rather a modified version of A. I.e. it contains large parts of the original A and differs from it in some parts. This is the meaning of "modification". What you mean is an additional software unit (e.g. a separate routine) or a separate patch that contains the changes. Only these can be distributed without the original BSD license, since they do not contain anything the author of A has written. But this is not what I am talking about. I think, we should make clear whether "retain the list of conditions" means mere citation of the original license term without any lawful meaning, of whether it means that the original license conditions are still in force. I think that only the latter case makes sense. But then it means, that the license actually does require the derivative work to be under the same license unless you are distributing them as separate patches, which, however, would still require the original code (to get a working new code) which is under the original license anyway. In other words, unless you completely rewrite the whole code there is no way to get out of touch of the original license of code A. And that, in my opinion, is at least a weak form of copyleft.--SiriusB (talk) 23:17, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
You're missing the point entirely. In order for a license to be considered "copyleft" it must require that the entirety of a derivative work be released under the same license. BSD-type licenses only require that the original work (not any derivative works) remain available under that license. Some people that choose to distribute under BSD-style licenses would actually take some offense to their works being identified as being "copyleft" (seeing as the intention of these licenses is to not impose additional restrictions on derivative works, only to maintain to openness of the source code as it was received). You can distribute a software Y under a closed-source license that is based on software X that was under a BSD-style license and the distributor of software Y is only liable under the BSD license that the original source for software X remain available (this could be as simple as providing a link to the initial source that they used in their software), not their derivative versions of that software, and that attribution in the license remain in place. The only license that I'm aware of the you could possibly refer to as a "weak copyleft" license is the LGPL as this allows for dynamic linking and inclusion into other software projects (which themselves may be closed source) but still does not allow for modified versions of that specific code to be distributed under anything but the LGPL and requires that the LPGL code remain open to copy, modify, and be redistributable under the LGPL. Similarly, you could distribute software under the GPL that included LGPL code but the LGPL would still apply to that specific bit of software (or any derivations thereof) while the entirety of the software project would be covered under the GPL (as they are compatible in that arrangement) and would require that distribution fall under those licenses respectively depending on exactly what parts of the software you were redistributing (either just the LGPL or the GPL or both). MerlinYoda (talk) 18:16, 10 September 2015 (UTC)

Did Stallman invent copyleft distribution terms?[edit]

Richard Stallman certainly popularised the concept of copyleft, but did he also invent it?

I'm not aware of any copyleft licences/terms that predate GNU.

He didn't invent the wordplay "copyleft", but the wordplay was previously used for other things (e.g. Tiny BASIC used the wordplay but it was just an anti-establishment wink, the software was more or less public domain).

Secondly, regardless of whether he was first, it would also be good to document when he first used copyleft distribution terms. He describes it in the GNU Manifesto of 1983 but he probably used it before then. Anyone know? Gronky (talk) 17:12, 1 May 2013 (UTC)

Merger proposal: Viral license[edit]

There's a short article at Viral license which is basically a POV duplicate of this topic.

It should surely be moved into the already-developed section: Copyleft#Viral_licensing. "Viral licensing" is not a distinct topic. The only original aspect covered is a paragraph about the idea of proprietary software including limits on further distribution, but this micro topic doesn't justify a separate article and could perfectly be dealt with in this article. Gronky (talk) 17:25, 1 May 2013 (UTC)

Support Panpog1 (talk) 16:21, 2 June 2013 (UTC)
Support. Would be happy to help edit/nurse along as necessary. LuisVilla (talk) 18:11, 7 July 2013 (UTC)

Current Share-alike section inaccurate[edit]

The section: Copyleft#Share-alike (as of 10 May 2013) confuses "Share-alike" as a concept and as an implementation. It talks about details of some of Creative Commons licences but says that these are general truths about "Share-alike" licences, but then gives only the Creative Commons licences as examples.

That paragraph should be rewritten, but first I want to wait for some consensus on merging Share-alike into this article, for the reasons given here: Talk:Share-alike#Merge_into_copyleft. Gronky (talk) 10:57, 10 May 2013 (UTC)

Don Hopkins uploaded a scan of the original "Copyleft (L)" sticker and envelope[edit]

Hi, Don Hopkins here. I just uploaded a scan of the original "Copyleft (L)" sticker, and the front and back of the envelope that I stuck it on.

Feel free to include the illustration or other details I've provided in the article. Since the details I've written here and in the picture description are probably considered "original research", what more do you suggest I do so you can use them in the article?

The envelope contained a 68000 manual that Richard lent to me while I was visiting Tech Square at MIT. I got the sticker in the dealer's room of some random east coast science fiction convention (which RMS also frequents).

Anetode claimed that "Hopkins and Stallman borrowed the term from an occult cultural movement and applied it in a different context to a new form of copyright licensing now referred to as copyleft." -- maybe he considers SciFi fandom to be an "occult cultural movement"? There may be some truth to that...

From the looks of it, I must have had a lot of free time on my hands back then.

I am both disappointed and relieved that St IGNUcius didn't incorporate anything else from that envelope into the mythology of his Free Software Religion, the Church of Emacs.



Copyleft (L)

The material contained in this envelope is Copyleft (L) 1984 by an amoeba named "Tom". Any violation of this stringent pact with person or persons who are to remain un-named will void the warantee of every small appliance in your kitchen, and furthermore, you will grow a pimple underneath your fingernail. Breaking the seal shows that you agree to abide by Judith Martin's guidelines concerning the choosing of fresh flowers to be put on the dining room table. Failure to break the seal on a weekday is [...]

Also, here is an email message he sent to me (quite) some time after he received the package. I'm not sure why it took him so long to respond. I don't remember the exact years, but I wrote "1984" on the envelope, and I replied to this message five days later. Maybe the package was sitting around his office for a few years until he finally got around to opening it? Or maybe it just takes him a while to respond sometimes (I have that problem too). You'll have to ask him.

   Date: Wed, 25 Jun 86 12:45:28 EDT
   From: (Richard M. Stallman)
   I figured out what a copyleft is.
   It's the sort of thing that I put on GNU software and manuals.
   The left-wing version of the copyright that rightists use
   to exploit the masses.

Xardox (talk) 08:21, 24 November 2013 (UTC)

Update: Oh, this is just too funny. A negligent Wikipedia editor deleted the images, without bothering to ask me for an explanation to clear up his extremely ironic misunderstanding, because he mistook "All rights reversed" for "All rights reserved", and failed to read the copyright explanation I wrote that said I created the images, and he totally missed the irony of what he did.

We had this exchange on his talk page after he deleted the images:

Xardox (talk) 08:21, 24 November 2013 (UTC)

Copyleft images[edit]

What gave you the idea that the files I scanned and uploaded were copyright violations? Did you not believe the explanation that I wrote that I created them? Why did you delete them? And why didn't you wait to hear back from me before deleting them? An explanation would be appreciated. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Xardox (talkcontribs) 04:51, November 24, 2013‎

Hello. You specifically wrote on the images "All rights reserved." What's more, just because they used the word "copyleft" does not mean that the artist is releasing the images as free in a way compatible with CC-BY-SA, especially given that he used the term before it had its modern meaning. In fact, he seemed to be mostly using the term in jest. Magog the Ogre (talk) (contribs) 05:20, 24 November 2013 (UTC)

Good lord you are dense.

First: Educate yourself by reading these article: and

Specifically the part that says "All rights reversed is a phrase that indicates a release of copyright or a copyleft licensing status. It is a pun on the common copyright disclaimer "All rights reserved", a copyright formality originally required by the Buenos Aires Convention of 1910."

The go back and look at the images and the explanation I wrote. I specifically wrote the phrase "All rights REVERSED", not "All rights RESERVED".

REVERSED: verb, past tense: reversed; past participle: reversed. move backward. "the truck reversed into the back of a bus" synonyms: back, back up, drive back/backward, move back/backward

The word "reversed" has a totally different meaning than the word you mistook it for, "reserved":

RESERVED: adjective, 1. slow to reveal emotion or opinions. "he is a reserved, almost taciturn man" synonyms: reticent, quiet, private, uncommunicative, unforthcoming, undemonstrative, unsociable, formal, constrained, cool, aloof, detached, distant, remote, unapproachable, unfriendly, withdrawn, secretive, silent, taciturn; 2. kept specially for a particular purpose or person. "a reserved seat" synonyms: booked, taken, spoken for, prearranged;

And "the artist" in question is ME. Did you not read the explanation I wrote, that explained quite clearly that I stuck the sticker on the envelope, and that I drew on the envelope? I am the artist in question, who originally created the artwork on the envelope that I sent to Richard Stallman years ago, and that I more recently scanned and uploaded. I already explained that, but you failed to comprehend or believe it. Do you think I am a liar? What is your evidence that I am lying? Can'y you clearly read my name "Don Hopkins" and even most of my address written on the envelope?

All the sticker says is "Copyleft (L)", as you can plainly see. And "Copyleft" is NOT the same as "Copyright", in the same way that "reversed" is not the same as "reserved".

The WORD "Copyleft" is NOT copyrighted. And the phrase "All rights reversed" does not bestow a copyright. In fact it means exactly the OPPOSITE of that. Does the irony of mistakenly claiming that a scan of a "Copyleft" sticker is copyrighted totally escape you? Do you see how totally ridiculous your mistake is? Do you hear a "WHOOSHING" sound? That is the sound of you totally missing the point.

It is a joke, get it??? The phrase "All rights reversed" is commonly used after the term "Copyleft". I guess you have never heard of Richard Stallman or Project Gnu or the Free Software Foundation or Copyleft or anything that the image is about or that I wrote about in the explanation of the rights that I wrote, because all of that went totally over your head. WHOOSH.

So please restore the file, or offer some proof that I am lying.

Xardox (talk) 08:03, 24 November 2013 (UTC)

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