Copyright, copyleft and creative commons

Posted by jerry on February 17th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology, Writing

I have had occasion recently to address a copyright issue, when one of my papers turned up on an Estonian website and then many iterations of it around the web all linked back to the Estonian one, and not to my original on my site. While I’m not precious about my work, and am quite happy to see the text appear on Wikipedia, my objection was to the further links that did not come my way.

I was able to amend the link on Wikipedia, but other derivative sites clearly had old versions. After writing a series of emails pointing out the error of their ways, I found the major sites like Wikipedia and responded within hours by amending the link to reflect the true copyright owner – so congratulations to those sites. Others seem to stream the information to seemingly orphan pages devoid of any email contact points, and to those I wrote to the top level domain operator pending further action.

But it did also get me thinking about the concept of copyright, and of its variations aimed at allowing people to take something in the public arena and develop it collectively with anyone who stops by. This broadly, is the concept of copyleft.


Then there is a kind of middle ground – a creative commons licence, in which copyright is still retained, while allowing free downloads and use of the material. In a sense, that is the spirit in which my band site offers its MP3 downloads – you can download for free and enjoy as many times as you like, as long as you attribute the music to Full Circle Band, and not claim it as your own.

Creative Commons

As far as my material is concerned, I’m happy for people to quote it, download it, or link to it – all I ask is attribution for my work and a courtesy link to my version of the piece. Site rippers are, in the words of the great Jar Jar Binks: ‘So rude!’



Comment by Linn Skinner

One of my favorite rants “Copyright Piracy”. We’ve been fighting it in the needlework industry with little progress. I’m glad you had some good results.

Posted on February 18, 2007 at 2:21 pm

Comment by jerry

Perhaps it was the tone of the cease and desist letter… 🙂

And I agree it is a serious issue and quite widespread on the web. At this stage the results have been very pleasing – a google search ten pages in fails to turn up the offending piece now. So I shall consider the matter resolved. In only one case was the entire entry removed from a reference site – text, link and all, but in all other cases the link was replaced with one leading to my page. It was all done within about 48 hours, so I am very pleased with the outcome.

In the needlework industry I have seen whole stitch dictionaries cloned on other sites and appropriated without permission or attribution. And it needs to be fought at every stage.

Many thanks for your comment!


Posted on February 18, 2007 at 9:46 pm

Comment by mandy

Thanks for addressing this thorny issue. Its shocking to realise how many people seem to have little understanding of the idea of copyright. Even the simple idea of attributing the originator / owner…
As you say “So rude”.

Posted on February 18, 2007 at 10:41 pm

Comment by peacay

I like the CC licenses being displayed if only because it helps to promote ‘reasonable behaviour’ which is, let’s face it, the best that can be hoped for on the internet (ie. full attribution, titles, links).

Let’s face it, if you put something on the internet, there ought to be an expectation by the putter that other people WILL use that thing, one way or another. If one does not want their thing used, then the internet is not the place to put it. (that’s just a reality assessment, not my attitudinal thang)

CC notices give at least a sense that there is ownership and possibly copyright involved. But those sites that have bigass signs and right-click popup blocks are at least partly to blame for the widespread ‘eff-you!’ mentality.

‘Reasonable’ is the word and behaviour of choice for circulation and promotion to and by all internetters.

Posted on November 20, 2007 at 3:22 pm

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