Copyleft licenses are not “restrictive”

Sharing a blog post I published today:


This seems very contradictory to me.

This is true of anyone […] and uses copyright law to enforce their will upon the software – in this way they possess, and exercise, power over the user.

Which is exactly how copyleft licensing works. Possessing and exercising power over users via copyright cannot be construed as giving them more freedom. This is an obvious contradiction.

In any case, corporate power over closed source software does not magically transfer to permissive licensed open source software. That is a strawman argument.

The potential existence of closed source software that may (or may not) contain permissive open source software cannot reduce any freedoms granted via a permissive license. Also, preventing such a use case of an open source project, as a copyleft license does, cannot force corporate contribution to an open source project. It can only prevent it.

Kind of, yes, but importantly, copyleft exercises its power for the purpose of democratizing the software and breaking down the intellectual property.

1 Like

Thanks for sharing the article. I always have a mess in my head when it comes to distinguish these categories of licenses. The best description for me personally is still “reciprocal” and “non-reciprocal”, that kind of klicks best in my head (most descriptive)

1 Like

I think this only seems like a contradiction because of the blurring of roles. One of the analogies in the article is the restriction on police breaking up peaceful assemblies which guarantees the freedom to assemble. In this case there are 2 clearly separate roles: the police who have a restriction and the assembly who has a freedom. Some of the people in the assembly might happen to have “police officer” as a job title, but when they are assembling in their capacity as a citizen they are not embodying the role of “police officer”. So the same person might occupy different roles at different times.

Copyleft licenses place a restriction on developers, or more accurately distributors, in order to ensure freedom for users. When a person receives a copy of software and runs it they are in the user role and have the freedom. But when they turn around and give a copy to someone else (modified or not), they are no longer in the user role, they are in the distributor role. So now they have the restriction so that the user - the person who is now receiving the copy - has the freedom.


sorry for repeating what i said on fedi, but what are your thoughts on non-free copyleft licenses like the parity public license and the server side public license?