Most of us have a fair idea of what copyright is. Copyright is a bundle of rights in an original work. Work here includes artistic work, sound recordings, literary or dramatic work, cinematography, photographs and software. A copyright holder is vested with a bundle of rights including

  1. Right to reproduce the said work
  2. Right to issue copies of the work
  3. To communicate or perform the work in public
  4. To make adaption and translation of the work

Hence the copyright holder (where rights are not licensed) is solely entitled to perform acts including those mentioned above, with respect to the copyrighted work. The misconception is that copyright is a right acquired by registration of the work with the Copyright Office, which is not so. It is a natural right.


Imagine a situation where let us say, I, write a poem and tired of the rights vested in me through copyright in the poem, wish to share some of the rights in the work with others as well, but subject to certain conditions. That is what Copyleft is all about.

Copyleft is a concept by which a work is thrown open to third parties with some rights, like copying, making changes etc and any derivative born out of such work will also be subject to similar (Copyleft) terms and conditions. For example : A person who received a work with Copyleft (license), would be free to use and adapt the said work, tweak and make improvements to it but the resultant work will also come under the purview of such Copyleft only, with similar set of rights and restrictions.

The bottom line of Copyleft is an opportunity for people to make use of a work and grant the same set of rights to the other interested parties as well. While an entity grants other parties the right to use a work to make modifications or adaptions to it, then the second-in-line should carry on, without in any way hampering the chain, say by trying to claim proprietary rights over the derivative born out of the Copyleft work. So a person who receives a Copyleft work and adapts it will not be in a position to restrict the rights over the said derivative.

The Copyleft concept/form of licensing is quite refreshing in terms of free movement of a work. It does not confine the rights in work to a single person or a minimal group of persons but rather widens the area to include as many persons as are interested provided such persons are willing to comply with the conditions of Copyleft, which again are quite reasonable. Such Copyleft forms of licenses are more commonly found in the software industry, but is of course not confined to Software but can be implemented to any work, be it artistic, dramatic or literary.

It is also to be borne in mind that Copyleft does not imply that the work is in public domain, where any person cannot exploit a work in

The GNU General Public License by Mr. Richard Stallman was the first Copyleft form of license to come into play.


There can be no comparison between Copyright and Copyleft as the very concept of Copyleft springs from the concept of Copyright.  But Copyright is prohibitive in terms of forbidding third parties from exercising rights reserved only for the author. Whereas in a Copyleft form of license, the rights granted to third parties are tweaked to be more liberal but at the same time, also ensure that such liberality is not cut off but carries on to every user of the said work. Personally I feel Copyleft encourages innovation.


End of the day, it all depends upon what the author wants? Content to keep its rights to itself or ready to warmly welcome third parties who are willing to do the same with others!