Dominus Verax

One of the greatest questions asked by artists and other creators (photographers, musicians, publicists and bloggers) is how should they protect their contents against plagiarism and copyright violations. But further to that question lies a bigger question, the one which asks whether these rights should be protected at all. Today, more than ever, Copyright protects artists in a (imho) too restrictive manner. The perception of Copyright is of a right to exclusively own, use and enjoy the work.

Once a person owns the full Copyright of its work, he can choose whether to allow the public to enjoy it or whether he should be the sole benefactor of his work (by sole benefactor i do not mean the only person who earns money, but rather the only person which enjoys the goodness of its work – as in the Latin interpretation of the word). Once an Copyright owner decides to let the public enjoy his work in any manner, he can choose whether to license it (i.e software licenses and EULAs), license it in a Copyleft manner or use the default copyright rule (see also, in Hebrew) and only display the work in your website (domicilium).

The “Default Copyright Rule” means that any work you publish is truly and totally yours. You created the work and, as such, you have the only right to use it. Even if you publish it in your website, people are not allowed to copy the work and are not allowed to use it in any way (and probably. even not framing it in their websites).

Once you chose to license your work, you may either sell licenses to individual customers or chose to publicly license your work. Publicly licensing your work means you give the general audience some rights to use your work, whilst you maintain some other rights. This is why this is called “Copyleft“, as some of the rights are left with you, and some are given to the public.

A good example for a Copyleft license is the “Creative Commons” (cc) license. This article, for example, is licensed under a This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Israel License, this means that every person can republlish, reprint, edit or modify, adapt, use or even archive this article as long as they attribute their work back to the original Author. Creative Common Licenses allow authors to choose how to distribute their work, they can choose whether to allow users to modify their work or only republish, and whether commercial use is allowed or not.

While the most obvious reason why to choose a (cc) license is in order to “legitimise” copyright infringement or even just to prevent plagiarism by allowing users to reuse the content without enforcing major restrictions, the better reason to use creative commons is the ability to use (cc) licensed work inside your works. When, for example, a musician wishes to sample music and use it in order to create new music (for example, DJ Danger Mouse’s Grey Album) he can use (cc)ed; This means less legal dealing and more freedom to create.

Another reason to use (cc) licenses is to allow bloggers and other websites to republish your work and gain the media’s attention. For example, Tay Zonday chose to release his songs under a (cc) license which is one of the reasons for its great popularity (see also, and in hebrew). Once you license your video, for example, you grant users the right to make it viral by sending it by mail. Sending a non (cc)ed work by email may also constitute as copyright infringement as the author did not license his work, thus the Default Copyright Rule exists.

Another reason for using a (cc) license is in order to allow Mash-Up of your work, meaning that users may be free to use your work in other works, and help creating a buzz around your video. The internet Buzz is usually created by thousands of users who modify existing works into a pastiche until rubbed off into the general knowledge (for example).

The last, but most important, reason to publicly license your work is in order for that work to be made collectively and updated frequently. This applies more to software, but also is important in academic papers and reports. When people are free to modify your work, they are also free to update it as times goes by, even long after you decided to leave the work alone. In GPLed software (a software license for the general public usage), once a developer leaves a project, further programmers are free to use it and update the software; this means that the software, unlike the persons writing it, will never die. Updating papers, or using their content in future articles (Wikipedia uses several of my photos for example).

Creative Commons Licensed work is also a good source for artists to rely on; you may use services such as flickr to find (cc)ed work and use it in your work, with the only request of re-releasing it under the same license. This is great when you wish to embed photos in your blog, but also great when you wish to present a presentation with images or even design a new corporate website.