Copyleft and Morality – Safeguarding the Interests of Intellectual Property Owners in Open Access Resources


Intellectual Property is a significant intangible asset for every organization; thus, it is critical to preserve it as effectively as possible. Copyright is a sort of intellectual property protection that may be used by any organization. Copyright gives its owner the exclusive right to use, reproduce, and publish the copyrighted content. Until permission is obtained, no one else may use or publish the copyrighted content. Nonetheless, there is a segment of the public that wants to overrule and reject the notion of copyright, preferring to let anybody use and change certain works. This is known as copyleft, and it is often preferable in the case of software development.

Copyleft is an agreement that promotes the free sharing of ideas and knowledge with an aim to encourage creativity. It was born out of the radical activism of the free software movement, which is responsible for bringing programmers from all over the world under one roof, against the backdrop of the Internet, new technologies, and intangible properties. Don Hopkins introduced the idea of copyleft, and Richard Stallman further popularized it in the 1980s.

What is a Copyright?

Copyright is a collection of rights that provide a creator the sole ownership of his creative works of art and literature. All unique artistic work has a copyright linked to it by default, thus registration is not required. The moment a creator’s concept takes physical shape, it is automatically protected by copyright. A work must be an original piece of literature, theatre, music, or any form of art with aesthetic merit in order to be protected by copyright. While copyright safeguards any idea’s tangible manifestation, it does not safeguard the concept itself. Before anything is reprinted or duplicated, it is imperative and of utmost significance that permission be requested from the copyright owner and obtained. The rights to reproduce, copy, publish, disseminate, and translate the copyrighted work are all included in the package of rights granted to the copyright owner. Such a right is a natural one that the creator of the artistic work naturally acquires upon creation.

The Copyright Act of 1957, and later revisions control copyright protection in India. The Act establishes a framework for the protection of original works in a variety of formats, such as literary, artistic, musical, and dramatic works, as well as computer software, cinematographic films, and sound recordings.

Similar to international copyright laws, the Indian Copyright Act immediately grants copyright protection to the creator of a work upon its creation. The Act specifies the period of copyright, which normally lasts for the author’s lifetime plus 60 years from the year of death. Copyright for anonymous or pseudonymous works lasts 60 years from the year of publication. Copyright for works of collaborative authorship lasts 60 years from the death of the last living author.

Understanding Copyleft


The majority of creative works, including software programs and codes, are protected by copyright and can be copyrighted. It should be mentioned, nonetheless, that current programs are frequently utilized as a foundation for the creation of new software and programs in the field of programming and software. This is the reason a lot of software developers provide their consumers the option to edit and amend their work. One term for such permission and license is copyleft. 

One type of license that permits unrestricted use of a work protected by copyright is known as a copyleft license, which was given by the work’s original author. Software with a copylefted license, for example, can be used, distributed, or replicated as long as the source code is maintained open and accessible to the public. Any program that has been copylefted must be given a comparable copyleft license to all of its subsequent users, and any modifications to the software must likewise be copylefted in a similar way. Simply said, copyleft is a license that grants third-party access to an original work in exchange for specific rights, such as the ability to copy and alter it. In a similar vein, any new work derived from such original works will also be covered by a copyleft license.

A copyleft license’s primary goal is to provide users the freedom to use and alter original works while afterward granting the same set of rights to any other interested parties. So, anybody who acquires a copylefted work and alters it cannot reserve all ownership rights to the new work. The idea of copyleft was a novel one regarding the free exchange of works. It broadens the field by granting the rights to the work to everyone who has an interest in it and is willing to abide by the terms of the copyright licensing agreement, rather than simply a single person or a limited group of individuals.

In the case of Copyleft, the author can first copyright the original work before allowing other parties to make use of the distribution terms and conditions, which give them permission to use, alter, and redistribute the codes and programs as long as the documentation terms are left alone. This procedure ensures that the original author of the source code is acknowledged even when it is copied and shared. The right to adapt such work belongs to everyone who finds it interesting, and both the original work and the modified work remain free. Each programmer who uses and changes a piece of copylefted software has the right to distribute and reproduce it, but not to benefit from its sale commercially. 

In general, a copyleft license is valid for as long as the author’s original work has its copyright. The creative work of the author is protected by copyright for 60 years following the author’s passing, following which the work enters the public domain. Once a piece of work is in the public domain, anybody may use it without permission.

Open Source v. Copyleft

Although the source code for open-source software is placed in the public domain, the developer is not required to share the whole product code in order to create a for-profit product. The modifications and improvements contributed to open-source software may not always need to be covered by the same license. To prevent the modifications from being copyrighted and giving one-person exclusive rights over them, copylefted software requires that any modifications made to it be accompanied by a comparable copyleft licensing agreement.

It is crucial to remember that all copyleft licenses are open-source licenses, but not all open-source licenses are copyleft. To ensure that the software stays free and open, copyleft licenses employ the technique of reciprocal licensing for derivative works.

The developers’ aims and principles influence their decision between open source and copyleft licenses. Although open-source licenses allow freedom and flexibility, they do not require derivative works to be open. Copyleft licenses, on the other hand, place a premium on ensuring that derivative works stay open and publicly accessible.

It is critical to check and understand the precise terms and conditions of each license before using or distributing software or creative works. This ensures compliance with licensing terms and corresponds with the intended usage of the work.

Copyleft and Moral Rights

Because of the evolution of the information society, issues like copyleft and moral rights related in copyright are timely. Plagiarism’s immorality and other issues are critical for all authors who create works of art, science, and literature.

In fact, the concept of moral rights is French in origin. “Moral rights are distinct from copyright. Copyright protects property rights, which permits writers to publish and commercially benefit from their published works.” In France, author rights have been defined as personal rights on the author’s intellectual creation since 1793. It is clear that moral rights nowadays do not always correspond to morality. The history of moral rights protection varies among nations. It was not until 1911 that the United Kingdom’s legal protection of moral rights related to copyright started to align with the Berne Convention.

It is also possible to criticize copyright (as a whole) and moral rights in copyright. They exemplify Romantic concepts of authorship, according to which the author is a lone creative genius who imbues the work with his or her individuality in isolation from the rest of society. This poses a philosophical challenge. Moral rights, according to some critics, give an inaccurate picture of the creative process because they ignore the collaborative and intertextual character of authorship.


Copyleft is a choice generated from the copyright rules itself, offering a little amount of freedom and liberty, allowing users to share and alter the software, which was undoubtedly impossible with programs that were historically copyrighted. The assumption that the idea of copyleft will result in collective ownership among numerous people within the restrictions and boundaries of copyright rules would not be incorrect. Copyrights are now outmoded and constrictive in the digital age. Copyleft gives internet users the required independence and liberty to create and develop software that represents a variety of cultural nuances. The field of computer programming must advance via the usage of several programs and pieces of software. Thus, it is advised that copyleft licenses rule at least the digital world if not all of it.