Copyright, copyleft, protect your stuff…

Assuming you write materials and you’d like to get protection and/or keep some credit for your work, here are a few thoughts.
(Note: do not confuse this Blog posting with any manner of legal advice.)

PolicemanFirstly, you ought to decide if you really want your materials to be shared and/or protected.  No matter what you do, remember that anything placed on the web is subject to being copied and reused. Having said that, protection and ‘legal’ sharing of your materials really need not be an all or nothing proposition.  You can, if you are so inclined, offer your writings or other creative content to the world with varying degrees of freedom and/or protection. But before you decide, you might want to read a bit from Wikipedia on these two topics: ( btw. the headers will link you to the complete postings)

Copyright

Copyright may apply to a wide range of creative, intellectual, or artistic forms, or “works”. Specifics vary by jurisdiction, but these can include poems, theses, plays, other literary works, movies, dances, musical compositions, audio recordings, paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, software, radio and television broadcasts, and industrial designs. Graphic designs and industrial designs may have separate or overlapping laws applied to them in some jurisdictions.

Copyright does not cover ideas and information themselves, only the form or manner in which they are expressed.

Copyleft

Copyleft type licenses are a novel use of existing copyright law to ensure a work remains freely available. The GNU General Public License, originally written by Richard Stallman, was the first copyleft license to see extensive use, and continues to dominate the licensing of copylefted software. Creative Commons, a non-profit organization founded by Lawrence Lessig, provides a similar license called ShareAlike.

When I choose license protection for my work (like this site), my personal favorites have always been those quasi-open licenses offered by the folks at Creative Commons.  As their site states:

With a Creative Commons license, you keep your copyright but allow people to copy and distribute your work provided they give you credit — and only on the conditions you specify here. For those new to Creative Commons licensing, we’ve prepared a list of things to think about. If you want to offer your work with no conditions attached, or you want to mark a work that is already free of known copyright restrictions and in the public domain, choose one of our public domain tools.

If you want to use one of their licenses, you can get simple, easy to use help selecting the ‘right license’ for your needs directly on their site.

Once you choose the license-style you want, you do need to be serious about its use.  Simply placing a little label on a page may not be formal or serious enough.  Although sometimes the sign is enough to scare interlopers away.  Consult with an attorney if you want the real scoop… I do not provide legal advice and even if I did I doubt you would want it.   However, this I can tell you from my experience.  You will benefit greatly from third-party proof that the material you want protected and have created was ‘in fact’ built by you.  I know of a couple of good and helpful services/ sites providing services in this realm, by that I mean I have used them:

Both of these sites (businesses) provide innovative, affordable methods by which you can archive and/or ultimately prove your ownership of your protected materials.  The bottom line is this:

  • be prudent,
  • choose appropriate, useful, affordable protection
  • get good legal advice  (not from me) —and —
  • protect your stuff.