“Obscurity is a far greater threat to artists and authors than piracy” Tim O'Reilly
Copyright law was originally created to settle a dispute between English and Scottish publishers in the early 18th Century and has grown today into a fundamental aspect of the creative 'business'. Some would argue that the development of copyright law has been driven by the needs of distributors to protect investments in their 'products' as opposed to the needs of creative people to create, develop and distribute their work. Online where millions of people create text, photos, music and film without an investor, the priority is often to get as wide an audience as possible as opposed to making money. Not that making a profit would be a bad thing, which is where Creative Commons comes in - a set of off-the-shelf licenses for anyone involved in creating things which you want to distribute widely but don't want to be unprotected legally. In just six years since their launch by Lawrence Lessig, Creative Commons licenses have been applied to over 170 million creative works, and were recently the subject of a major report from the Arts Council of England, investigating (and supporting) their use. You decide how open you want the license on your work to be: no limits over copying, selling or re-editing the work, through to a more restrictive license for non-profit reuse.
"In theory copyright represents the ability to make a living off my work. In practice it represents the threat of myself or my children not being able to express themselves without fear of the rich and powerful invoking their copyrights to silence us." Contributor, to Arts Council report