Michael Stutz on Wed, 30 Sep 1998 16:24:25 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> copylefting non-software information

   Applying Copyleft To Non-Software Information
       by [1]Michael Stutz, 97.06.11
     * [2]First, what is Copyleft?
     * [3]Why is Copyleft important, or even necessary?
     * [4]So why isn't the FSF's GNU GPL good enough?
     * [5]Ok, so how do I copyleft my non-software work?
     * [6]Where do I go from here?
First, what is Copyleft?

  The entry for "copyleft" in the definitive hacker lexicon, the
  [7]Jargon File, reads:
    copyleft: /kop'ee-left/ [play on `copyright'] n. 1. The copyright
    notice (`General Public License') carried by GNU EMACS and other
    Free Software Foundation software, granting reuse and reproduction
    rights to all comers (but see also General Public Virus). 2. By
    extension, any copyright notice intended to achieve similar aims.
  The idea of [8]copyleft originated with =FCber-hacker Richard Stallman
  in 1983 when he started the [9]GNU project. In brief, his goal was "to
  develop a complete free Unix-like operating system." As part of that
  goal, he invented and wrote the [10]GNU General Public License, a
  legal construct that included a copyright notice but added to it (or,
  technically, removed certain restrictions), so its terms allowed for
  the freedoms of reuse, modification and reproduction of a work or its
  derivatives to be kept for all.
  Normal [11]copyright asserts ownership and identification of the
  author, as well as prevents the use of the author's name as author of
  a distorted version of the work; it also prevents intentional
  distortion of the work by others and prevents destruction of the work.
  But it also carries other restrictions -- such as restricting the
  reproduction or modification of a work.
  Copyleft contains the normal copyright statement, asserting ownership
  and identification of the author. However, it then gives away some of
  the other rights implicit in the normal copyright: it says that not
  only are you free to redistribute this work, but you are also free to
  change the work. However, you cannot claim to have written the
  original work, nor can you claim that these changes were created by
  someone else. Finally, all derivative works must also be placed under
  these terms.
Why is Copyleft important, or even necessary?

  Certain restrictions of copyright -- such as distribution and
  modification -- are not very useful to ``cyberia,'' the [12]free,
  apolitical, democratic community that constitutes the internetworked
  digital world.
  With computers, perfect copies of a digital work can easily be made --
  and even modified, or further distributed -- by others, with no loss
  of the original work. As individuals interact in cyberia, sharing
  information -- then reacting and building upon it -- is not only
  natural, but this is the only way for individual beings to thrive in a
  community. In essence, the idea of copyleft is basic to the natural
  propogation of digital information among humans in a society. This is
  why the regular notion of copyright does not make sense in the context
  of cyberia.
  Simple `public domain' publication will not work, because some will
  try to abuse this for profit and deprive others of freedom; as long as
  we live in a world with a legal system where legal abstractions such
  as copyright are necessary, as responsible artists or scientists we
  will need the formal legal abstractions of copyleft that ensure our
  freedom and the freedom of others.
  Much literature has been written on this subject by Stallman, and the
  details can be found in the excellent [13]texts published by the Free
  Software Foundation.
So why isn't the FSF's GNU GPL good enough?

  It is good enough! The GNU GPL is not only a document of significant
  historical and literary value, but it is in wide use today for
  countless software programs -- those as formal part of the GNU project
  and otherwise. The GNU GPL originated for the specific goal of sharing
  software among computer programmers. However, looking closely at the
  GPL, it appears that the same License can be easily applied to
  non-software information.
  Alternately, a document can be copylefted under different, or much
  simpler terms; whether or not the GNU GPL is the specific means to the
  end is not the issue, although the GNU GPL certainly provides the most
  explicit (and canonical) definition of copyleft.
Ok, so how do I copyleft my non-software work?

  It's simple. While a particular situation may require or inspire its
  own specific License, possibly similar to the GNU GPL, all that a
  copyleft notice must really do is fulfill the points as defined above
  in [14]"First, what is Copyleft?". Using the GNU GPL to copyleft your
  work is easy.
  The GNU GPL states that it "applies to any program or other work which
  contains a notice placed by the copyright holder saying it may be
  distributed under the terms of this General Public License," so this
  "Program," then, may not necessarily be a computer software program --
  any work of any nature that can be copyrighted can be copylefted with
  the GNU GPL.
  The GNU GPL references the "source code" of a work; this "source code"
  will mean different things for different kinds of information, but the
  definition of "source code" -- provided in the GNU GPL -- holds true
  in any case: "The source code for a work means the preferred form of
  the work for making modifications to it."
  The notices attached to the work can not always be attached "to the
  start of each source file," as recommended by the GNU GPL. In this
  case, the directory that the files reside should contain a notice, as
  should any accompanying documentation or literature.
  Finally, for non-software works the "copyright" line included at the
  start of the "source code" of the work is modified in language
   <one line to give the work's name and a brief idea of what it does.>
   Copyright (C) 19yy  <name of author>

   This information is free; you can redistribute it and/or modify it
   under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
   the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or
   (at your option) any later version.

   This work is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
   but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
   GNU General Public License for more details.

   You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
   along with this work; if not, write to the Free Software
   Foundation, Inc., 675 Mass Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.

Where do I go from here?

  Here are sources for futher information on copyleft, especially as it
  is applied to non-software information:
  The [15]Free Software Foundation is the home of the GNU project and is
  the canonical source for copyleft and freely-distributable software.
  [16]Ram Samudrala wrote the [17]Free Music Philosophy and creates
  freely-copiable music as the band [18]Twisted Helices.
  ``I Told You So!'' -- Mark Amerika recently wrote a column about
  copylefted works as the new literary renaissance, called
  [19]"Copyleftists: Form and Action In the Network Environment ".
  In May 1997, [20]Richard Thieme published "[21]Fractals, Hammers and
  Other Tools," a beautiful essay about fractals which relates it to the
  end of intellectual property in the cyberian age.
  John Perry Barlow's [22]"The Economy of Ideas" from Wired 2.03 gets it
  right -- that information is a verb, not a noun.
  If you know of other non-software works which are released according
  to these terms, or if you choose to apply this to your own work,
  please send me mail at [23]stutz@dsl.org.
  Here are links to my own copylefted texts ([24]literature, [25]reviews
  and [26]technical), [27]images and [28]music.
  As of 23 Dec 97, this document is also available from the Free
  Software Foundation's Web site, at
  Rev. 1.3, 19 Jan 1998
  Original content copyright (C) 1990-1998 by Michael Stutz; this
  information is free; it may be redistributed and/or modified under the
  terms of the [30]GNU [31]General Public License, either Version 2 of
  the License, or (at your preference) any later version, and as long as
  this sentence remains; this information comes WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY;
  without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A
  PARTICULAR PURPOSE; see the [32]GNU General Public License for more
   FEEDBACK:  [33]MICHAEL STUTZ * PO BOX 542 * BEREA OH 44017-0542 USA
   * [34]http://dsl.org/m/
           [35]catalog of used music, books and zines for sale


  1. mailto:stutz@dsl.org
  2. http://www.dsl.org/copyleft/#what
  3. http://www.dsl.org/copyleft/#why
  4. http://www.dsl.org/copyleft/#gpl
  5. http://www.dsl.org/copyleft/#how
  6. http://www.dsl.org/copyleft/#where
  7. http://www.huis.hiroshima-u.ac.jp/Computer/Jargon/TheJargon/TheJargon
  8. http://www.gnu.ai.mit.edu/copyleft/copyleft.html
  9. http://www.gnu.ai.mit.edu/
 10. http://www.gnu.ai.mit.edu/copyleft/gpl.html
 11. http://www.aimnet.com/~carroll/copyright/faq-home.html
 12. http://www.dsl.org/cgi-bin/display.pl/m/doc/ana/96/cyberspace-declaration
 13. http://www.gnu.ai.mit.edu/philosophy/philosophy.html
 14. http://www.dsl.org/copyleft/#what
 15. http://www.gnu.ai.mit.edu/
 16. http://www.ram.org/
 17. http://www.ram.org/ramblings/philosophy/fmp.html
 18. http://www.twisted-helices.com/th/
 19. http://www.altx.com/amerika.online/amerika.online.3.4.html
 20. http://www.thiemeworks.com/
 21. http://www.thiemeworks.com/islands/may/fractals.htm
 22. http://www.wired.com/wired/2.03/features/economy.ideas.html
 23. mailto:stutz@dsl.org
 24. http://www.dsl.org/m/doc/lit/
 25. http://www.dsl.org/m/doc/rev/
 26. http://www.dsl.org/m/doc/comp/
 27. http://www.sito.org/sito/pers/Stutz_M.html
 28. http://www.dsl.org/m/doc/mus/
 29. http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/nonsoftware-copyleft.html
 30. http://www.gnu.org/
 31. http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html#SEC1
 32. http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html#SEC1
 33. mailto:stutz@dsl.org
 34. http://www.dsl.org/m/
 35. http://www.dsl.org/catalog/

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