Copyleft has an undeserved bad name among people who advocate for copyright reform. We want to reduce copyright, and copyleft is based on copyright, and therefore we should reduce copyleft, or so the reasoning goes.
This is, however, simplistic, and I think the best way to explain this is with the analogy of self-defence, which is a perfect parallel.
Before I go any further, I’ll include a caveat. I acknowledge that the GPL does impose a condition in requiring disclosure of source. While it is entirely proper to impose conditions on the grant of (exclusive) monopoly rights, and I’m in favour of source disclosure being required for the publication of commercially copyrighted works (as method disclosure is required for patent grants), the GPL requires source disclosure not for the grant of monopoly rights, but for an act of copying. Even the CC BY-SA imposes a (minor) condition in requiring the retention of attribution. Where I refer to ‘copyleft’ below, I mean pure copyleft: the condition that restrictions not be imposed on copying–essentially the CC BY-SA with the attribution requirement (the ‘BY’ part) waived.
So here goes; self-defence first, then copyleft. Spot the difference:
Self-defence involves the application of force, but only against those who seek to use force against others. In a world without force, self-defence would be unnecessary. However unless we rid the world of the application of force, we should not aim to reduce the use of self-defence. While the application of force in general may threaten our freedom, self-defence does not. On the contrary, so long as there is the application of force in the world, self-defence plays a beneficial role in countering it, and should be supported.
Copyleft involves the application of copyright, but only against those who seek to use copyright against others. In a world without copyright, copyleft would be unnecessary. However unless we rid the world of copyright, we should not aim to reduce the use of copyleft. While copyright in general may threaten our freedom, copyleft does not. On the contrary, so long as there is copyright in the world, copyleft plays a beneficial role in countering it, and should be supported.
This is an appeal to Pirate Party members and supporters everywhere:
You have not just a legal right, but a moral right to self-defence. You have not just a legal right, but a moral right to use copyleft. Rather than releasing your writing as ‘public domain’, please release it under the CC BY-SA. If the attribution requirement bothers you, by all means waive it. But, please, do not forgo your right to self-defence.
(C) 2012 James C
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA 3.0).
Further, the attribution requirement is waived.