Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Differences between Copyright, Copyleft and Creative Commons

Motivated by the suspension of famous Spanish writer Javier Marias' blog because of license infringement, I searched the web and found the following comparison of licenses to stay on the safe side when reusing, mentioning or modifying content found on the web.
The infringement was reported by Michael Magras: part of a post from his blog was copied in Marias' blog without acknowledging the authorship. This resulted in a claim to Wordpress blogging platform and consequent suspension of the blog.

All the three licenses have something in common: they all deal with author's rights. They just differs in the way they protect them. Let's get down to business.


This is the most popular license, and unfortunately it's the most used one. It allows full rights to the owner of the work (that may not be the very author), and he's the only one that may decide what to do with it, whether to charge for it or not, besides having to request permission for usage. Distribution is only restricted to the owner of the creation, that means the license only allows possession but not distribution. This is usually applied to books, music, movies and software, as an example.


This license and Creative Commons license are pretty the same, this is because copyleft is the mother license for Creative Commons. This is quite the opposite of Copyright. Works are not restricted by any constraint: they can be modified, shared with other users and content can be copied. Modification of original work may even be commercial. Find more information here.

Creative Commons

This license is son of Copyleft and is gaining more and more notoriety firstly because of blogs. Difference between these licenses is that Creative Commons is more flexible than its father: level of protection can be set directly by the author of the work. There are different possibilities to establish what kind of constraints to attribute to a Creative Commons License, but all of them share one, that is acknowledging the author of the work. This is default obligation for the user. All other constraints are specified by the author. Following image sums up the features.

These licenses, except last two, have been mentioned already in this post. Last two indicate that the author does not keep any right on his work, basically the work is delivered as a World heritage.
"0" means that more than 70 years have passed since the author has passed away, while "pd" means that the work is already World heritage because the author indicated so. It's good practice to state in each page of a blog what the license is together with the right logotype. To choose Creative Commons license that best suits you, refer to these guidelines.

Back to Marias' blog, quoting the author and stating that author's work was subject to Creative Commons license would have avoided blog suspension.

Information in this post is translated from this publication in Spanish published here.