How It Is


It’s left, it’s right, it really all matters how you protect yourself, but also your readers.

I’ve seen a lot of people doing an un-copyright, including Brian Gardner who did it (in part) to simplify his life.

Our pervasive permission culture.
Our pervasive permission culture. Via Mimi and Eunice

While I’m a huge proponent of ‘Give it away’ (see all my ebooks), I also retain copyright on my creations for a reason, and it’s curiously the same reason why Brian (and Leo Babuta) don’t. Let me quote Leo:

I’m not a big fan of copyright laws, especially as they’re being applied by corporations, used to crack down on the little guys so they can continue their large profits.

I’m not the big guy. I’m the little guy. I want to protect what I created not for miles of profit, but because attribution is critical to my end goal of “obscurity.” That is to say the rationale behind my ebook philosophy of “Pay what you want” is that if people don’t know about a thing, they won’t buy/use a thing. Where as if people do know, and can find, a thing, they will use it.

As I said, and as Cory Doctrow says: People don’t not buy a book because it was free, they don’t buy a book because they don’t know about the book.

So if I remove copyright, and no one has to credit me, then no one knows about me and they can’t come back and get WordPress Multisite 110, or WordPress Bookstore and learn more. They can’t find this blog and get even more, free, tidbits about WordPress and computers and business and whatever else they use this site for. In short, without attribution, people can’t learn any more from me because they don’t know about me.

As confusing as this can be, I’m okay with you taking my stuff and giving it away for free. But I do want you to say “I got this from” so that you pass on not just the information to the next guy, but the ability for them to find more information. The knowledge, not just the information, is key here. Taking my work and presenting it as your own gives information, but it does not teach knowledge, nor does it enable anyone to learn and go forward because you’re throttling their resources.

Copyright isn’t about protecting the bug guy for me, it’s about protecting you from the big guy. It’s about making sure you know, and the next person knows where the information came from and how to resource it. Encyclopedias give away information, but the reason they’re amazing is that they give you the ability to gain knowledge from the information.

Copyright is my encyclopedia. It’s forcing you to keep credit/attribution, which gives you information and the ability to gain further knowledge from it. It protects me, but that’s incidental in that it helps you. And if it can keep the big guys from stealing my stuff and presenting it as their own, then everyone wins.

3 replies on “Copyleft”

I think you make a very good point. By referring back to the original author it allows the knowledge to propagate more than if the original author is unknown.

For example I was looking up template tags and plugins yesterday and found an article by Andrew Nacin. So I wrote a small article on template tags but referred back to the article by Andrew so that other people can find the original article and follow more of Andrew’s stuff if they are not aware of him already.

@chris odell: I had a minor giggle thinking there were WP folks who didn’t know Nacin, and then I remembered that I had no idea he was anyone important in the community at one point in time too! Which is really the point, isn’t it? We share info and authors, I read on your site about someone I didn’t know writing something awesome, I go read more, and I learn more.

Everyone wins!

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