Originally sent as an email to a friend.
So, copyright, as it stands now, is that I have copyright to this email automatically, and you cannot copy, redistribute or change this email until I have been dead for 70 years ( within the Czech Republic that is, other countries are different). You may, however, use small non-significant portions of this email in other works.
Copyright is complex, however. For example, if you were to take a photo of your husband while he was reading this email and post that photo to Facebook, would you be violating my copyright by including the email in the photograph? What about photographs including advertisements on the street, or inadvertently recording the music that blares through your window from a passing car? All of these details have lead to very interesting court cases.
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization which has promoted various shades of grey within the copyright arena. Creative Commons publishes a set of licenses which allow authors, artists and other creative people to share their work in a way that is less restrictive than the typical copyright. Creative Commons is not a government organization, it in no way forces artists to share their work this way, but artists can choose to do so if they so desire.
I won't list all of the licenses, as you can read about them on the Creative Commons website
The first shade of grey in our quest to eliminate copyright altogether is the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license. If you release your works under this license, users can copy your work so long as they don't make money doing so. They cannot change your work however. I dislike no-derivative licenses, because I think that it misses the whole point of a creative commons. I personally am interested in "free culture" not so much because I want to allow people to copy freely but because I want artists, inventors, and engineers to be allowed to be inspired freely, and to improve upon others work.
Slightly less restrictive is: Attribution-NonCommercial, which allows others to use your work as long as they don't do so for commercial purposes and so long as they give you attribution.
Attribution-ShareAlike is an interesting license. Anyone can copy, use and modify your work as long as they attribute you and give others permission to copy use and modify THEIR work. This is a so called copyleft (wiki article) license. Copyleft licenses are sometimes refered to as "viral" licenses, because they end up spreading as more and more artists want to build upon the copyleft work of others.
The least restrictive creative commons license is the Attribution license. Anyone can do anything they want with your work, without paying you, so long as they attribute you.
Here are some websites with creative commons content:
Also note, that there is of course lots of public domain material out there:
But those are shades of grey. Let's talk about a world without copyright and other forms of "intellectual property". I'll start by quoting Neil Armstrong:
"That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."
I grew up enthused with technology. Computers were getting faster, robots were getting more efficient, it seemed that mankind was making giant leaps left and right. I was excited. Soon cancer would be cured, no one would have to work because robots would produce our food and things for us, everyone would live forever, exploring the outer reaches of the galaxy in peace and harmony.
But what does it mean, for MANKIND to make a giant leap? I see here, computers getting faster: giant leap for Intel corporation. Cancer cured: giant leap for Pfizer. Robots getting more efficient: giant leap for KUKA.
Giant leaps are left and right, but none of them FOR mankind. Rather than cheering on as humanity progresses, I find myself more and more skeptical and worried, as corporations gain an ever growing control over world politics, and indirectly, my life.
When I was a teenager, I wondered what the meaning of life was. I prayed for the singularity, realizing that not I or anyone else had "the answer", and hoping that a super intelligent artificial intelligence might. I assumed that such an intelligence, once created, would be a public resource available for the good of all humanity. Now I am terrified what Google might do with such a power.
Within the realm of my own invention, I am always terrified that someone somewhere will have a patent on some small part of my idea, and will prevent me from being able to continue to produce the product in an open source manner. Legally, they have all the leeway in such a case. Especially if they are a patent troll, a firm which does nothing but hold patents. There is nothing I can do in such a situation but to pay out or to give up my invention and my dream.
One day I had a truly horrendous Britney Spears song stuck in my head. I don't even know how it got there, it must have seeped in like toxic waste from some passing car radio, or been played in a store I walked through. But what occurred to me, was that this song is a copyrighted work. Now it's playing in my head and according to law, I don't even own my own thoughts anymore.
Of course, I know that no one is going to break into my head and arrest me for having copyrighted content in there. But any self respecting creative type should understand the implication here. If you've ever dreamed of making a movie, you've probably automatically inserted background music, and if you didn't compose that music yourself, you took it from the well of inspiration which is your musical memory. Is your well of inspiration tainted by copyrighted content? Will you be able to secure the rights in order to produce the art which you dream to produce? Art which will inevitably be inspired by, and even incorporate copyrighted works?
By giving precedence to Creative Commons cultural works, your well of inspiration will be fresher. You will have more freedom to create, without fear of being attacked for plagiarism. With Creative Commons content, it often suffices to be able to remember who inspired you, and cite your source. With copyrighted content, you will most certainly have to pay a fee, and it is likely you will not be able to incorporate a copyrighted work at all.
Stay safe, choose CC content! Choose freedom! Choose open source!