Copyright vs. Copyleft

What is Copyright?

As defined by WIPO, Copyright is a legal term used to describe the exclusive rights of creators to reproduce, publish or sell their original literary and artistic works. 


What is Copyleft?

Copyleft refers to a general license agreement granted by a copyright owner which permits anyone to freely use the copyrighted work but with accompanying requirements that any resulting modified work will also be available freely, copylefted work can’t be copyrighted and would also be bound by the same licensing agreement. Copyleft license is commonly used for software, writings, digital art and other creative content.


Difference between Copyright and Copyleft 


  1. Purpose 

The purpose of copyright is to protect authors from unauthorized copying or selling of their work. On the other hand, a Copyleft license provides a method for the copyrighted work to be freely modified and distributed back to the community with reasonable restrictions mentioned above. 


  1. Rights granted to the owner 

Copyright owner has the rights to reproduce, copy, communicate, publish and translate the copyrighted work. Copyleft License holder has the freedom to use the work, study the work, copy and share the work with others, modify the work, and the freedom to distribute modified and therefore derivative works.


  1. Duration

In general, a copyleft license is valid for as long as a copyright.

The author’s artistic work is protected by copyright for a period of 60 years after his or her death.


  1. Nature of the right

Copyright is prohibitive in nature in terms of precluding third parties from exercising rights reserved for only the author. While Copyleft license, even with reasonable restrictions, is comparatively liberal in nature in terms of rights granted to third parties. In case of copyright consent of the actual author of the work is required to make any modifications while a copyleft license acts as implied consent (subjected to certain restrictions) to make any alterations. 


  1. Users

While copyright safeguards the interests of the society in invention and creativity by offering individual incentives via copyright control, copyleft does not confine it’s rights to a single person or a limited group of persons but rather widens the area to the public at large.


  1. Symbol

Copyleft is denoted by a reverted copyright symbol





Copyleft has been seen as a bridging mechanism that encourages the growth of social knowledge and the common good of society. Whereas copyright argues that an author should have the right to prohibit others from using his copyrighted work, copyleft opposes this and believes that  work should be free for all to use and ideas should be free to think and build on. In the light of this glaring clash between Copyright and Copyleft, the author would like to conclude this article by putting forward an open-ended question for the readers-i.e., is Copyleft ‘Copying’ done ‘Right’?


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