The concept of Copyleft emerged from the libertarian activism of the free software movement, which brought together programmers from all over the world, in the context of the explosion of new technologies, Internet and the spreading of intangible property.
Copyleft is a concept invented by Don Hopkins and popularized by Richard Stallman in the 1980s, with the GNU project whose main objective was to promote the free share of ideas and information and to encourage the inventiveness.
Thousands of works are currently used, distributed, modified and shared under the aegis of Copyleft. And while jurists still argue that it has no legal value, there is no doubt that Copyleft has a real impact on the creation, distribution and sharing of works.
The question, then, arises: should we still doubt about the legality of Copyleft?
Graphically and semantically contrary to Copyright, the legal valuation of Copyleft is essentially challenged by the existence and evolution of the notion of Copyright (A). However, the Copyright did not prevent the appearance of the notion of Copyleft and the two legal instruments appearing then, not contrary, but complementary (B). Notwithstanding, Copyleft ends up being a legal concept on its own right (C).
Origins and evolution of Copyright
The notion of Copyright appeared for the first time in England, in 1710, with the vote of the Statute of Anne. This statute has been strengthened and internationalized, in particular by its exporting to the United States, in order to respond to the authors' concerns about the challenges posed by the invention of printing.
The Copyright became the legal instrument to protect the authors from the mass-produced copies by creating a legal monopoly for their benefit, which valued their intellectual work and encouraged creation of works.
With the immediate effect of rewarding the authors, and ultimately promoting the advancement of knowledge in the general interest, as set out in the Copyright clause of the American Constitution, Copyright seems to meet the same ideals as Copyleft.
However, initially an effective legal instrument of promoting knowledge sharing, Copyright turned out to be also a redoubtable weapon in the hands of authors who wanted to impose prohibitive costs for the use of their works, putting this ideal at risk.
A reaction of the American Courts, carrying this constitutional ideal, appeared to be necessary in order to legally limit the scope of Copyright, allowing, at the...