Is this a place to add information about Creative Commons?

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.

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
"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.
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

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 ?

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.


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.

Maybe we can talk ere about the Free Art License : --N�co

Comment on first paragraph:

"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)

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

I am proposing a symbol that can be used to represent copyleft, similar to the symbol for copyright. I have placed an example here: File:Copyleft symbol proposed.png The idea is that, since with copyleft, "all rights [are] reversed", the symbol should be, too. The copyright symbol is a "c" in a circle (which resembles an "O"), so the copyleft symbol should be an "o" (resembling a circle) in a partial circle, resembling a "C". The circle is not closed, representing the idea of the material being "free". Comments? -- Iseeaboar 20:49 13 Jul 2003 (UTC)

It's interesting but Wikipedia is not the forum where this type of thing should be discussed. Wikipedia is not a place for original research (# 10). --mav
You are right. Please excuse my error. I will propose it elsewhere.


"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)? Anthony DiPierro 03:08, 7 Mar 2004 (UTC)

[1] 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. Anthony DiPierro 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. anthony (see warning) 19:32, 9 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Tualha's changes

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

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?

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)

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 */ What does this Wikipedia stuff have to do with copyleft?

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)

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

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.