On copyright

In reaction to a flurry of distribution list commentary with pre-conceptions on what copyright is, I thought to bring some order to the conversation, as follows:

For the record, copyright is an oft-maligned *legal* concept, giving the creator of an original work *exclusive* rights to it, usually for a limited time. 

Historically and traditionally, copyright provides "the right to copy", subject to a conventional, pre-determined set of criteria, generallygiving the copyright *holder* the right to be *credited* for the work, to determine who may adapt the work to other forms, who may perform the work, who may financially benefit from it, and other related rights.

It is a form of protection of *intellectual* property.

Creative Commons copyright allow copyright holders to define conditions under which others may use a work and to specify what types of use are acceptable; these CC copyright licenses are free and easy-to-use, provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. CC
licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the typical “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”

In the case of software - and even some hardware (!) - stuff which is copyrighted and licensed under a software license is done under a *variety* of licensing schemes. For end-users there are various licenses ranging from very restrictive *proprietary* licenses to open-source licenses. There are different licensing schemes for access to and use of source code. To address special intellectual property issues regarding source code, open-source licenses, and special licenses, such as copyleft, have been created.

Not all software is licensed, or even copyrighted. Software may be published without an accompanying license, as license-free software. Ironically, this stuff remains copyrighted, with distribution subject to ordinary copyright law, and sale subject to ordinary sales law. In
*some* countries, software may also be released to the public domain, in which case it is not copyrighted and the notion of a copyright license simply does not apply at all.

Richard Stallman's GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or GPL) is the most widely used free software license, which guarantees end users (individuals, organizations, companies) the freedoms to use, study, share (copy), and modify the software. Software that ensures that these rights are retained is called free software.

Confusing? It shouldn't really be, but when Steve Balmer of M$FT calls Linux a cancer, and Richard needs a friendly parrot for comfort, and Bernstein explains that under the terms of copyright law, software users are always allowed to modify software for personal use, regardless of license agreements, we clearly need sage advice, strong coffee and a fantastic sense of humour.

I think the key issue is that all forms of creativity will expect some form of acknowledgement. Past, present and future. Giving credit where credit is due.
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Posted in #namibia, cc, copyright, creative commons, EduNet Namibia, FOSS, FOSSFA, GPL

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