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Copyright or copyleft: When is copyleft appropriate to use?

On Behalf of | Jul 8, 2024 | Intellectual Property Licensing |

Some people say you use copyright to enrich yourself while you use copyleft to enrich the world. Copyright and copyleft are both intellectual property (IP) rights concepts that allow others to use IP that is not theirs legally. However, while copyright is more restrictive, copyleft is more permissive.

If you are thinking of doing the latter, here is what you should know:

What is copyleft?

Copyleft is the same as copyright. They are both legal tools allowing IP owners to control their IP however they see fit. However, while copyright automatically restricts others from using your IP unless you permit them, copyleft will enable others to use your IP without permission if they follow your conditions. With copyleft, the creator or current rights holder dictates what conditions the grantee must follow to use the IP legally. Failure to follow the specified conditions disqualifies them from using the IP.

Why choose copyleft instead of copyright?

You can pursue a copyleft license when you want the public to use your IP for free but do not want others to hijack that right and commercialize your IP through derivative copies of your work. Using copyleft ensures that all succeeding works from your IP remain accessible to the public. This also bars others from claiming derivative copies of your IP as their own and filing copyright on them.

Popular copyleft licenses, including GNU-GPL, Mozilla Public License, Free Art License, and Creative Commons, are available online.

Can you bring copyleft infringement to court?

Yes. Copyleft is just the same as copyright, even when it comes to legal matters. You retain the right to control your intellectual property however you see fit. Anyone infringing on your IP can be liable for damages. Anyone circumventing your intentions is voiding the rights you granted them to use your IP and, thus, has no right to use any part of it.

If you think your intellectual property rights are violated, consider talking to a lawyer to see if you may have a case to file against the infringer.