The copyleft movement
The copyleft concept is coined by the free software movement as we have repeated several times in this guide. This movement tried to give a political expression to a set of licenses that guaranteed that their programs were not appropriated (registering them as their own or using them with restrictive licenses) by unscrupulous companies or individuals. For a program to be free software it had to fulfil four freedoms: the freedom to run the program for any use, the freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish (this makes necessary that the source code is available), the freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour, the freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits.
However, in the publishing field and generally in all that relates to «cultural goods» (graphic work, music, video) it is understood that a work is copyleft if it meets the minimum requirement that allows its dissemination and non-commercial distribution. This implies the freedom to copy it, its digitalisation and free distribution on the Internet. Obviously, this «minimum» copyleft can be extended with permissions to generate derived works from the original (such as a film adaptation, a translation, a new work about fragments of the first, etc.) or with permission to make commercial editions by third parties or even all this at once and always without having to consult the right holders again.
Copyleft in the edition field has its own story and it is not well known. A story that connects it with the counter-cultural fields of the 1970s and 1980s. This story is mainly recognised in the anticopyright label, which as its name suggests was a conscious denial of the intellectual property laws and the international copyright convention. The anti copyright was encouraged by an important desktop publishing movement. It emphasised the need to create a set of free knowledge, not regulated by an increasingly restrictive legislation and that acted invariable on behalf of big corporations and entities that typically manage the authors operating rights. However, this movement, which played an important role in questioning the intellectual property principles and the offensive against the duration extension and extent of copyright, was closely linked to the self publishing processes of the 1980s, but it did not found any channel that made it a commonly used tool by the authors and the public.
For this reason, copyleft has become a much more versatile and flexible tool, allowing a wide range of possibilities with different freedom degrees and preservation of certain rights by the author.
In addition, copyleft does not deny the current law. It adapts to it, saving tons of possible legal problems to those authors who in the beginning are not willing to greater adventures than those derived from experiments with their works creation.
Creative Commons is an alternative to traditional copyright developed by a nonprofit organisation of the same name. By default, most original works are protected by copyright which gives specific rights about the use and distribution of them. Creative Commons allows the copyright users to release some of this rights while keeping others with the objective of increasing the access and sharing of intellectual property.
The copyright has historically been a proposal of all-or-nothing: a work is either in the public domain or its owner says "all rights reserved". The end of copyright protection for most of the works has expanded considerably, from 14 years (in 1970 when the copyright law was enacted for the first time in the US) until 70 years after the work creator death. Seeing the need for options besides "public domain" and "all rights reserved", the copyright creators tried to establish a middle ground of "some rights reserved" that respects the intellectual property while expanding the acceptable use of copyrighted material. All licenses require attribution and the least restrictive one only requires attribution. Other licenses are: "Non-derivatives", "Non-Commercial-Non-Derivative" and "Share Alike" which requires derivatives to have the same licenses as the original. For example, using Creative Commons for a photographer could allow anyone to replicate their photos or to make derivative works from them, as long as it is done for non-commercial purposes.
Creative Commons puts a unique power in the hands of content owners and users, creating an environments in which restrictions are in the last row in front of permissions, and people's creative talent benefit common good.
In some cases, people who have the time and resources to look for the formal permission to use intellectual property are unable to locate the copyright owner or even determine which works are protected. Because the Creative Commons licenses are next to the content, people immediately know under which conditions its use is allowed, without having to locate the copyright owners or complain about what they have to do if the owners were not found.