Copyright vs. Copyleft

Challenges to traditional copyright resulting from peer-to-peer applications, free software, filesharing and appropriation art have caused a wide ranging debate on the future of copyright. Dmytri Kleiner brings existing critiques of material property from the left to bear upon the realm of copyleft artistic production and asks how, within the existing copyright regime, can artists earn a living?

In the area of software development copyleft has proved to be a tremendously effective means of creating an information commons which broadly benefits all those whose production depends on it. However, many artists, musicians, writers, film-makers and other information producers remain sceptical that a copyleft based system where anyone is free to reproduce their work, can earn them a living.

Copyleft licenses guarantee intellectual property freedom by requiring that reuse and redistribution of information be governed by ‘the four freedoms,’ the freedom to use, study, modify and redistribute.

However, property is the enemy of freedom. It is property, the ability to control productive assets at a distance, the ability to ‘own’ something being put to productive use by another person that makes possible the subjugation of individuals and communities. Where property is sovereign, the owners of scarce property can deny life by denying access to property, or if not outright deny life, then make the living work like slaves for no pay beyond their reproduction costs.

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