Copyleft Architecure Project ID: D_055

01 Copyleft Attitude: Proprietary Transparency

©Copyright vs. Copyleft

What is copyright? The Lottery Incentive
To encourage learning and the promote the progress of human knowledge, copyright laws have been created to encourage authors to create and contribute. The incentive of a copyright compels the author to create by providing the original author with complete and monopolostic control over the use of their work.

Copyright Basics:
Gives the author exclusive rights to:

  1. reproduce
  2. prepare derivatives
  3. distribute copies
  4. display the work publicly

What is copyleft? The Gift Economy
Copyleft contains the normal copyright statement that asserts ownership and identification of the author, however it differs in that it the author gives the work away and allows recipients the freedom to distribute and modify the work. It also adds the additional condition in that any new creation based on the original must also be covered by the same copyleft agreement.

Copyleft Basics:
Gives the public exclusive rights to:

  1. reproduce
  2. prepare derivatives
  3. distribute copies
  4. display the work publicly

Why copyleft?
In our age of information sharing, this is an admirable acceptance of a work of art in the age of digital reproduction. The copyleft attitude is becoming a global phenomenon expanding far beyond the world of computer programming and making its way through art, journalism, music and new media. It encourages a new form of collaboration and idea sharing that is at the foundation of democracy, expression and creativity.

Can architecture benefit from the copyleft attiude?
Yes. Anything that can be copyrighted can benefit from a copyleft. With the rising use of digital media in the architecural process, copyright issues in general will become even more relevant and the copyleft attitude even more benefitial. Though architecture is not software, the architectural community could greatly benefit by openly sharing all files and digital objects (schematics, models, drawings, renderings, animations) associated with an architectural project for reuse amongst the public. Open-sourcing these files will make architecture more accessible and advocate anyone and everyone, "rebel designers" and "architectural hackers" included, to partake in the design process of architectural projects. This will lead to a more informed public and many new resources to help teach the complex issues behind the architectural thinkers of our time.

Free => Open-Source => Proprietary Transparency
The architecural concept of transparency has been much explored throughtout the course of modern architecture. Examples include Le Corbusier's search for an open floor plan, Mies Van Der Rohe's glass skyscapers or the Metabolists organic principles which led to the Pompidou's open display of the buildings mechanics. New technology has given architecture the ability to explore yet another form of transparency — proprietary transparency.

With the increase of use of computers in architecural projects, the source code for a project is now stored in digital format — the CAD/CAM/CAE file. Like any peice of digital media, these files can be transfered, emailed, modified, and deleted with a simple click of a mouse. In addition to streamlining the design process and helping architects visualize new geometric forms, the digital medium offers architects the ability to make their work accessible to a much broader market than the site-specific project they are used to working on. By applying the principles of open source software development in the context of architecture, the hope is to democratize architecture by liberating design schemes from the proprietary ownership of a traditional copyright.

Sample Copyleft Licenses
View the english translation of the artelibre license (free art license) and some reasons to use and support the free art movement. The leading licesnce in the software industry is the GNU GPL. Along with the free art license, there many other open source licesnses to choose from, some are medium specific such as the open audio licesne and the others are address specifically for "non-software" information such as the design science license.