Schools Training

A Term for the Modern Media Professional

13 JUL 2012
Career Path : Arts and Entertainment

Pursuing a career in music or film requires more than an incessant dedication to your talent. While perfecting your craft is a vital component to your success, so too is an understanding of the industry and how it works. It would be nice to think that every person you come across on your artistic journey will not take advantage of you. Unfortunately, there are a good number of self-perpetuating folk out there, which means you have to be on top of your game at all times to make sure that no one sells you short.

Part of protecting yourself requires you knowing how the industry works. By understanding the processes and intricate details, you will know what to expect, which means your radar will go off if anything seems off-kilter.  A part of these details are the terms and conditions attached to a creative piece. One such term is copyleft.

Pinned and perpetually advocated by software developer Richard Stallman, copyleft is a practice that provides the liberal use and distribution of bodies of work, including software programs and creative works like music and film. Essentially, where copyright laws exist to ensure exclusive rights to the maker of an original creation—be it a song, video, design, etc.—copyleft serves to ensure that no one, including the original creator of the work, has exclusive rights over a piece of work. If, for example, you release a song under a copyleft licence, then the public has the liberty to acquire, revise, and reproduce the song without any legal restraints, under the condition that their version is also released under copyleft.

So, let’s look at an example just to make sure we are all the same page. Let us say that you graduated from music production school, and finally recorded and released an original album. Copyright laws make sure that anyone who modifies or reproduces the album without a licence to do so will be fined or given a jail sentence. That said, the use, credit and royalties of the album are controlled by you. Conversely, copyleft laws permit people to modify or reproduce your album freely so long as their activity is also done under copyleft, which will perpetuate the free and equal use of the product in question, in this case, your album and the various versions of it.

Admittedly, the entire notion of copyleft seems counter-intuitive at first. Whether they are self-taught or attended audio school, a musician’s creative process involves a lot of time and energy. Why would anyone give up their rights over something they created? Truthfully, from a profit perspective, a copylefted work will produce less capital than a copyrighted one. But copyleft stems from a philosophy that focuses more on creative integrity than it does on money. The point of copyleft is not to undermine the originality of people’s work, but rather; to promote the notion that knowledge is among, if not the, greatest equalizers. By making art and information a free for all, copyleft tightens the global community of information seekers, making the hunt for knowledge an unrestricted endeavour.


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