Open copyright licenses

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There is nothing to cheat yourself - intellectual property rights are quite restrictive. Nowadays, when the public is more aware of their existence, they are more and more often enforced and more and more emphasis is placed on their protection, especially on the Internet. The Internet, whose idea has always been the free and unlimited distribution of content, has become a place where you can find many illegal works - so no one is surprised that their authors or proprietary rights owners seek to eliminate piracy. On the other hand, the idea of ​​open licenses or free cultural goods, which can even be treated as an alternative to piracy, is gaining more and more popularity.

Open licenses, free software licenses, Creative Commons, open source, open content, open documentation, copyleft, free cultural goods - all these terms have a lot in common, but most of all they come from one idea: freedom to access and use works.

Open license - what does it mean?

Copyrights to the work (personal and property) belong to its creator - this is the law. The law also allows us to use these works on certain principles: fair use (if permitted by law) or with the consent of the creator or proprietary copyright owner (on the basis of obtaining a license or transferring economic copyrights). Polish law does not provide for any other way to legally use the work.

Open licenses (also known as free) were created in response to strict copyright laws in the world. They began with the desire to share their work with people in such a way that they could use these works creatively in a wider way than allowed by copyright laws in different countries, while respecting the author's fundamental rights or his reservations.

Open licenses allow for unlimited, free and non-exclusive use of works in their original form, provided that specific conditions described in the license are met. Licenses may permit, among other things, that anyone can copy, modify, and use the work without restriction, always stating who the author of the original is. Another - perhaps the most popular - condition of open licenses is the possibility of unlimited use of the work, with the proviso that the new work that will be created as a result of using the original work will also be made available to others under an open license. However, keep in mind that there are many types of open licenses with different requirements, so make sure you understand the type and requirements before using a work made available under a free license.

The idea of ​​open licenses

The idea behind open licenses is universal access to content. They are a kind of public license agreements concluded between the author and the people using the work, guaranteeing unlimited access to the works. The author of the concept of open license is Richard Stallman, who was the first to propose the four freedoms with regard to the use of computer programs. It turned out, however, that his proposal was so universal that it quickly began to be applied to other categories of works as well. The freedoms mentioned by Stallman are:

  1. Access, i.e. freedom to read and use the work,

  2. Dissemination - freedom to freely distribute the work further,

  3. Adaptation - the freedom to make changes and corrections, create derivative works,

  4. Dissemination of Adaptation - Freedom to freely distribute a derivative work created.

Open licenses not only promote the dissemination of knowledge, the development of science, culture or society in general, but also initiate new projects, lead to improvements, progress and a certain economic growth. They make authors able to reach a much larger part of the society than if they made their works available under the terms of copyright law. Thanks to open licenses, authors' works can be popularized, reused and developed.

Open licenses and the public domain and author's rights

It should be emphasized that making the work available under an open license does not transfer it to the public domain or deprive the author of his personal or property rights. If the author decides to cover his work with one of the free licenses, he will not lose his rights, but will only grant everyone the freedoms listed above. It is important, however, for the author to specify exactly how he wants to share his work (i.e. he must provide information under which license he makes the work available). Therefore, ensuring all freedoms in accessing the work must occur as a result of a legal action by the author (e.g. a declaration of appropriate content).

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Why is it so important?

Because it should be remembered that under Polish copyright law, the author cannot transfer his rights to the work into the public domain as a result of a legal act disposing of it. This transfer takes place only after the expiry of the time specified by legal provisions (as a rule, seventy years from the death of the author - after such a period, the author's economic rights expire, i.e. the work can be freely used - of course, with respect for moral rights, as these never expire). Article 41 of the Copyright and Related Rights Act only stipulates that economic copyrights may be transferred to other persons by inheritance or on the basis of an agreement. This means that we can only transfer it to a person, but we cannot waive this right in such a way that no one will have it (which would also mean that you can use the work freely, because no one will have the right to forbid it. ) - that is, paradoxically, we cannot release our work into the public domain. The absurdity of this provision and the situation that has arisen is all the greater as, pursuant to Art. 17 of the Copyright Act, unless the Act provides otherwise, the author has the exclusive right to use the work and dispose of it in all fields of use and to remuneration for the use of the work. It might seem that the exclusive right to dispose of the work means that the author can do whatever he wants with it - that is, he may even get rid of it. Unfortunately, in subsequent provisions, the act effectively prevents us from doing this, e.g. allowing only the transfer of proprietary copyrights to others or granting a license, no possibility of waiving remuneration for using the work, the possibility of withdrawing the license, etc.

Open licenses are therefore a way to put a work out into the world almost as the public domain would allow it.

Open licenses and "freedom movements"

The idea of ​​freedom for the created works resulted in the emergence of all kinds of movements that promote this idea and the idea of ​​open licenses. The result was the definition of Free Cultural Goods or Free Software. In fact, both of these definitions are derived from the four freedoms proposed by Richard Stallman.

Free Software Definition was given by the Free Software Foundation (FSF), and from that definition, the Free Software Licenses recognized by the FSF were created. Another organization that promotes the idea of ​​software freedom is the Open Source Initiative (OSI), which has developed an open source definition against which a program license is validated as open source. Based on this definition, OSI has created its own list of Open Source Licenses, which largely coincides with the list of licenses recognized by the FSF. The difference between the free software movement and the open source movement is that open source places more emphasis on the technical issues of code sharing and application distribution than on software freedom ideology.

Free Cultural Goods is a definition referring to any other works that are not computer programs (it was inspired by the activities of the FSF). Its seeds were created as early as 2006, but for the first time it was published in 2007 by Erik Moller. The definition specifies the conditions that must be met for a given work to be included in an open content set (open content, also known as free documentation, or open documentation). This definition is used primarily by the Wikimedia Foundation, which is the organization that manages wiki websites - primarily Wikipedia. This means that everything that is posted on Wikipedia, for example, is there as part of open content, i.e. open content, falls under the definition of Free Cultural Goods and is made available under the relevant Licenses of Free Cultural Goods (their list is constantly updated).

Another example of an organization that also promotes the use of open licenses is Creative Commons, whose hallmark is the use of the entry some rights reserved - "some rights reserved" (as opposed to all rights reserved - "all rights reserved"). Creative Commons has also defined its own list of open licenses and the scope of the rights granted to a given work depends on the type of license (Creative Commons licenses are quite recognizable by their abbreviated names, e.g. CC BY, CC BY-SA, where the abbreviation CC stands for Creative Commons , and the subsequent designations show what can and cannot be done under the license - e.g. BY: you may copy, distribute, present and perform the work and derivative works based on it, provided that the name of the original author is mentioned; NC: you can use the work only for non-commercial purposes, etc.). Creative Commons also offers an additional CC0 tool, which allows a complete waiver of copyright (or the widest possible one in a given legal system), but only in countries where it is possible (so it will not apply in Poland).

The question may arise, how do all the licenses of all these "liberty movements" relate to each other? Well, they were all based on the same idea - free access and use of works.

But if they come from the same idea, why so many of these movements and so many licenses? Because open licenses are of many types, even though they are based on a single idea. They have different versions depending on their subject (which is also related to individual organizations promoting them - some refer only to software, others to other cultural goods, others are specialized and, for example, promote free licenses only in the field of art), they must also be adapted to national law. It is worth noting, however, that some organizations use each other's licenses (eg Free Cultural Goods have both some Creative Commons licenses and licenses announced by OSI on their list of licenses). In addition, individual licenses may have different restrictions depending on the type of license.

Open License Restrictions

As a rule, open licenses should allow as much as possible. Organizations, however, propose various types of licenses, in fact taking care of the interests of the creator. It is the creator who independently chooses under which license he will make his work available - sometimes he wants broader protection, sometimes narrower. The most popular restrictions on free licenses include, for example:

  • the need to provide the authorship of the original work, if the work is used,

  • the need to share a work created on the basis of a work made available under the same license (copyleft - the shared work can be modified, but what will be created as a result of the modification must be made available to others on the same terms as the original work was shared; copyleft is translated as the abandonment of the objections to copying, i.e. it is the reverse of copyright),

  • prohibition of using the work for commercial purposes.

Open licenses - summary

Open licenses reflect the culture of the internet, which was based on the free exchange of information from the very beginning. And although respect for copyright on the Internet leaves many wishes, it should be remembered each time that without a license, we - internet users - will always be bound by restrictive copyright laws, even if they are not universally respected. So let's use works made available under free licenses.

As can be seen from the above, different types of licenses (open source, open content, free software) refer to the same - they are types of open licenses, created by various movements promoting freedom for the created works. These licenses are a specific response both to Internet piracy, but also to the human need to access knowledge and culture. It is worth emphasizing that in fact such licenses were not created because the authors wanted to eliminate piracy. They were created because it turned out that the original work, in the hands of other creative people who are not intended to break the law, could evolve, change into something better, be improved and modified, thanks to which it was more suited to specific people and their needs - the best example is here computer programs (on the basis of such expectations, the first open source license was created - the GNU General Public License, which authorized the modification of computer programs).

Free licenses are a good way for authors, by giving up some of their property rights, to make their work available to others and thus allow it to evolve and be a starting point for the work of others. Of course, free licenses are not an ideal solution, they do not solve all problems - technological advances are much faster than the development of intellectual property rights. It is therefore an alternative to the applicable law, a specific way of circumventing it, a way to reconcile the laws with reality, if the author is willing to do so. All these types of licenses have one purpose: to facilitate access to content in the current legal order without the need to construct complicated contracts.