One of the most misunderstood terms in the English language is “copyright”. The word “copy” in “copyright” is a noun and not a verb (denoting making a duplicate). The French have a more explicit term: “droits de l’auteur”, which can be translated as “author’s rights”.
Copyright is a legal right created by the law of a country that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution. It is important to note that copyright protects only the “original expression of ideas, and not the underlying ideas themselves”. An idea is an abstract entity. It is expressed in many ways : as words (prose, or poetry), as music (lyrics, or tune), as figures (map, sketch, diagram, drawing, painting, icon, sculpture, photographs, logos, monograms, emblems) , as computer programs, or in any other palpable form/medium). Such an expression is often called as “copy”.
The exclusive rights are not absolute but limited by restrictions and exceptions to copyright law, including fair use. These rights frequently include usage, reproduction, control over derivative works, distribution, public performance, and “moral rights” such as attribution. Typically, the duration of a copyright spans the author’s life plus 50 to 100 years (that is, copyright typically expires 50 to 100 years after the author dies, depending on the jurisdiction).
Another term closely related to “copyright” is a “license”. A “license” is a legal instrument used for sharing the copyrights of the author. The license can be granted only by the author — the person who owns the copyright. A license is a formal document which specifies the rights being shared, and the conditions attached to this sharing.
The difference between copyright and license is similar between an ownership document and a rent/lease agreement. While renting out an apartment, the owner specifies various conditions (see examples below), but retains the ownership with himself. Another analogy would be like buying a train ticket. The passenger gets the right to use the train, the train still belongs to the railway company. The ownership is not transferred to the tenant. Only the conditions of usage by the tenant/passenger is formalised. Here are some common examples of conditions which can be specified in a rent/ lease document :
Usage: The tenant may not use the apartment for commercial purposes. The tenant may not store weapons,
explosives etc. in the apartment. The tenant should not disturb the peace and tranquility of the
Copying / distribution: The tenant may not be allowed to hire out the appartment to others. He is not authorised to sell or mortgage the apartment.
Modifications: The tenant is not allowed to make any modifications to the structure (e.g. breaking walls, blocking windows or doors etc.). The tenant may also not be allowed to repaint the apartment. The tenant may not add rooms or extensions of any kind.
Attribution: The tenant must retain the actual owner’s name and title in all ldocuments.
The train ticket analogy is pretty similar:
Usage: This ticket permits you to travel only between the two stations menioned in the ticket. Some tickets also specify the train or the class you can travel. Sometimes, even the compartment number and the seat number may be imposed.
Copying : You cannot use a copied ticket for travel. The ticket is not transferable.
Modifications: You cannot make any modifications to the train or compartment you are travelling in.
Each train company can impose its own set of restrictions/limitations with the ticket you buy.
Like a rent/lease agreement, a license may adopt / impose similar conditions. The license may or may not require payment of any kind.
A license is a contract between the uthor and the user. The author is free to take any action, if the user violates any conditions mentioned in the license.
Certain businesses e.g. music and entertainment business, have advocated the extension and expansion of copyright and sought additional legal and technological enforcement. The computer software industry has its own adaptation. There is a plethora of licensing schemes adapted for the computer software industry. Two licenses stand out, for their popularity:
* The GNU Pulblic License (GPL), created by the Free Software Foundation (FSF).
* The Creative Commons Lincense
These two licenses provide an unambiguous and standardised framework for sharing computer software or similar literary publications.
DISCLAIMER: The author is NOT an expert in legal matters. The above post is only his personal impression on copyright. Consult a qualfied and competent legal professional for confirmation on the above.