The History of, and Path forward for, Copyleft and the GPL

Copyleft, Software, Freedom, & You: Better Understanding Through History


Copyleft licensing has been the primary strategy of the FOSS community to guarantee users’ rights to copy, share, modify, redistribute reinstall modified versions of their software. In our earliest days, we naïvely thought that the GPL would work like magic pixie dust; we’d sprinkle it on our code, and our code would remain free as in freedom.

The reality check that we’ve received over the last 35 years has been painful on this issue. Nevertheless, those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.

This talk will not only discuss the primary past GPL enforcement efforts around the world, but also provide a whirlwind tour of how copyleft came to work how it does and discuss ideas and suggestions of future strategies in copyleft that, informed by this history, are our best hope for software freedom.


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