Definition of Copyleft

Copyleft is a licensing concept in which an author deliberately grants certain rights to users, allowing them to freely distribute, modify, and share the work or its derivatives, provided the resulting work is also bound by the same license terms. It is a play on the term “copyright” and is often associated with the free software movement. The purpose of copyleft is to encourage collaboration, creativity and the spread of knowledge while preventing proprietary ownership of the work.


The phonetic transcription of the keyword “Copyleft” using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is:/ˈkɒpiˌlɛft/

Key Takeaways

  1. Copyleft is a concept in copyright law that allows the use, modification, and distribution of a work, while ensuring that the same rights are preserved in any derivatives or adaptations.
  2. The most common method to implement Copyleft is by using a license, such as the GNU General Public License (GPL) or the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) license, which legally binds the terms of sharing and modifying a work.
  3. The main goal of Copyleft is to promote the creation and sharing of free software and other creative works, encouraging collaboration and innovation within a community where everyone’s contributions are recognized and accessible.

Importance of Copyleft

Copyleft is an important concept within the technology and software development world as it promotes the open sharing and modification of creative and intellectual works.

Unlike the traditional copyright that restricts the use, distribution, and alteration of an original work, copyleft gives users the freedom to utilize, modify, and distribute the work, as long as the same rights are preserved in any derivative works that emerge from the original creation.

This encourages collaborative development, accelerating innovation and fostering a supportive community, while ensuring that the work remains freely accessible to all.

Using copyleft licenses, authors and creators contribute to a shared pool of knowledge with the intent of benefiting society as a whole, providing more opportunities for learning, growth, and advancements in technology.


Copyleft is a licensing concept designed to promote the free distribution and modification of creative works while ensuring that the derived versions of those works are also freely accessible to the public. It aims to empower creators to establish their rights as authors, while encouraging others to modify and share their creations without fear of copyright infringement.

Rooted in the open-source and free software movement, copyleft licensing aims to nurture a collaborative environment in which creative works, source codes, and intellectual property can evolve, expand, and be redistributed without legal barriers. The purpose of copyleft is to foster innovation, knowledge sharing, and the growth of a creative commons by enabling access to a vast pool of resources and collective expertise.

It achieves this by stipulating that any person who modifies or adapts a copyleft-licensed work must also share the subsequent version under similar copyleft terms. This ensures that no single individual or organization can monopolize the use, creation, or profits from such works.

As a result, it encourages the pursuit of a broader common good by motivating creators to produce new iterations, improvise and expand upon existing resources, and to collaborate with like-minded individuals and organizations. With copyleft, artists, developers, and innovators have the opportunity to benefit from the ever-growing collective mastery of a connected creative community.

Examples of Copyleft

Copyleft is a concept in license agreements designed to ensure that open-source materials remain free and open for others to use, adapt, and distribute. It refers to a licensing scheme that requires any works derived from copyleft-licensed ones to be released under the same license. Here are three real-world examples of copyleft technology:

GNU General Public License (GPL): The GNU GPL is the most widely used copyleft license, initially created by Richard Stallman for the GNU project. The license permits any user to freely run, study, share and modify the software under the condition that if the modified software is subsequently distributed, it must also be released under the same GPL license. Notable projects under the GPL license include the Linux kernel, the programming language R, and the operating system GIMP.

Creative Commons Share-Alike (CC BY-SA): This copyleft license is part of the broader Creative Commons suite of licenses; it allows people to freely distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the original licensed work, as long as the new creations are released under the same terms. One famous example of the CC BY-SA license is the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, which uses this license to ensure that its content is freely available and can be adapted by anyone, as long as their contributions are released under the same license.

Affero General Public License (AGPL): The AGPL is a variation of the GPL that was designed specifically for network software. It stipulates that if a modified version of the software is deployed on a network server and used by other users, the source code must be made available to those users under the same license. This encourages sharing and collaboration in distributed software projects. The project management platform, Odoo, is an example of software released under AGPL.

FAQ – Copyleft

What is Copyleft?

Copyleft is a legal concept that allows authors to grant certain rights to their work, allowing it to be freely shared, modified, and redistributed while requiring that all derivative works be released under the same license conditions. It is a form of licensing and is often used in open-source software development.

How is Copyleft different from Copyright?

While copyright restricts the use, modification, and distribution of works, copyleft grants these rights as long as the recipients adhere to the same licensing conditions. The main difference between the two is that copyleft aims to create a collaborative environment that encourages sharing, whereas copyright seeks to protect the creator’s exclusive rights to their work.

What are the core principles of Copyleft?

1. Free Redistribution: The work and its derivatives can be freely distributed without legal or financial restrictions.
2. Source Code: The source code must be made available, allowing for modifications and improvements.
3. Derived Works: Derivative works should be allowed under the same copyleft license, ensuring a constant base of knowledge that can be built upon.
4. No Additional Restrictions: No additional restrictions should be imposed beyond the original copyleft licensing terms.

What are some popular Copyleft licenses?

Some popular copyleft licenses include the GNU General Public License (GPL), the Apache License, and the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) license. These licenses grant various levels of freedom and restrictions, and creators can choose the one that best suits their needs and intentions for their work.

What are the benefits of using Copyleft?

Using copyleft encourages a collaborative and open environment for sharing, modifying, and improving works. It allows creators to benefit from the contributions of others and can lead to faster innovation and growth. Copyleft also ensures that derivative works remain freely available, preventing monopolies and fostering a vibrant ecosystem of ideas and resources.

Related Technology Terms

  • GNU General Public License (GPL)
  • Free Software Foundation (FSF)
  • Open-source software
  • Software licensing
  • Copyright/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleft/copyleftmanual<|im_sep|>Creative Commons (CC)

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