Copyleft and Fish in Water

Still working on my Introduction to Open Education class for the fall… In digging around for resources, I was pointed to the free content tutorial on Wikieductaor, which reads in part:

Free content, for the Wikieducator community, refers to the liberty to adapt, modify and use content without restrictions.

However, because the free content promoters are also strong promoters of copyleft licenses, there is a clear restriction placed on a person’s liberty to adapt and modify free content – they do not have the right to choose how to license the adapted or modified work.

Thinking more about copyleft generally (and not about this site in particular), it made me wonder – is this mindset a simple “the last thing a fish would ever notice is water” problem? The copyleft crowd are obviously super sharp and very thoughtful… How is it, then, that they can promote copyleft and simultaneously claim that free content has no restrictions placed on it? The CC-By-SA license chosen in this particular case also restricts use unless you’re willing to attribute the authors.

So, when a free content promoter says “you can use, reuse, and remix free content without any restrictions,” what they really mean is, “without any restrictions that we are ideologically opposed to.” They are, of course, perfectly within their rights to choose whatever license they like for their content (unless they’re making a derivative of a copyleft work), so this isn’t a criticism of their choice of license. We just want to be clear that the only case in which there are no restrictions placed on a person’s abilities to use, reuse, and remix is when a work has been placed in the public domain.