Copyleft – the Next Step in Intellectual Property


Copyleft is similar to copyright, but is not the opposite or inverse of copyright. Copyleft is an element of copyright licensing. Copyleft is best described as a more freely shared type of license than the usual copyright, giving users access to a software or product with attachments to future usage. Users who choose to copyleft their product are hoping the sharing nature they provided users is continued. Here are some important differences between copyleft vs copyright.

Sophisticated Customization Possibilities

Copyleft allows businesses to customize a software program and make adjustments with less legal ramifications than copyright. The freedom this provides pushes creativity and furthers efficiency. One example as a result of this freedom is users can improve licensed products legally. This creates a more open, free-flowing community between companies and users, as copyleft allows for distribution of licensed material. It can be argued that copyleft material benefits companies using digital rights management systems, since they unclutter some of the hard restrictions from copyright content.

Smiling woman on a laptop in an office.
Copyleft leaves more room to customize licensed software.

Copylefted programs are often changed to benefit customers. Companies who purchase copyrighted material are at the mercy of the original creator for upgrades in the future. With copyleft, unique updates from numerous different users are possible. A lot of times this is more valuable because users of a software who decide to make upgrades are thinking with their own interests in mind, which should align with most other users.

Copyleft Technical Support Logistics

Direct technical support doesn’t exist for copyleft programs, which can be good and bad depending on the situation and the company. If a business must seek outside help to resolve an issue with copyleft programs, then the cost may exceed a more firmly licensed program in the long run. It also presents the obvious problem of serious downtime without direct lines to technical support.

Woman with glasses in creative office environment.
Technical support on copyleft-licensed products is much different than copyright technical support.

A positive aspect of copyleft is the creativity of users working together creates the best possible program. This is because copyleft allows users to create bugfixes and share them with other users. Updates and upgrades of a copyrighted problem are strictly regulated and enforced, and often overlook the needs of a user for things like security fixes. With copyleft, the bugfixes and updates are unregulated and often benefit the companies directly implementing the copyleft program.

Copyleft Usage Makes a Company Appear More Progressive

A company’s choices speak volumes, including to its own current and potential employees. Similar to ‘going green’, going copyleft is a way for a company to create a progressive atmosphere. The decision to implement copyleft material signals a company is willing to give freedoms to use its creations and benefit from changes or improvements it has implemented.

A group of office workers looking at a computer.
Copyleft gives a company a progressive vibe.

The benefit from this extends beyond the immediate implementation of free copyleft software or product. It acts as a self-promotion of a company, signaling to potential clients and customers that an enlightened view of business has been established by this company.

The perfect example is a company who uses hybrid vehicles for deliveries. This notifies customers and future employees the intentions of the business in terms of environmental impact. Using copyleft software offers a similar signaling.

Copyleft is a subdivision of copyright that should be considered when a company wants less restrictive software usage. Learn more about digital rights management to enhance copyleft benefits.