An intro to copyright

July 31, 2018

2 min read

I recently decided to start writing. While I was finishing my site, I realized that I should probably include a copyright notice or the like. Then I decided I should understand what copyright is about.

It may be surprising that the purpose of copyright is the curation of a rich public domain. The idea being if you can make it worthwhile for creators, then they will create more works, and if you can maximize access, then more will benefit from those works.

This is manifested in copyright in two parts. First, copyright law grants authors a limited monopoly on their work. Specifically, they get these exclusive rights. The purpose is to provide a clear incentive for authors to create.

The second part applies to the members of the general public and how they can use created works. Roughly, if the use of a work serves the public interest, that use is okay.

Use of a copyrighted work … for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. [source]

I learned that you don’t have to claim copyright. By simply creating the work, you have rights under copyright. However, the use of a copyright symbol and date are ways to signal that you understand your rights.

A modern complaint against copyright is that the restrictions on newly created works are too great. However, as a copyright holder you can make your works more accessible by waiving some of your rights. Creative Commons provides several licenses to this end. I decided to use the CC BY 4.0 license. Under that license, anyone can use my work for any purpose, though they must attribute me as the author and note if they alter the work.