Copyleft: Antonio Roberts and Jonathan Worth

On Photography
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Wikipedia describes copyleft, distinguished from copyright, as “the practice of offering people the right to freely distribute copies and modified versions of a work with the stipulation that the same rights be preserved in derivative works created later.”

Artist and curator Antonio Roberts joined researcher Jonathan Worth in a session that offered information and tips on alternatives to copyright, particularly in relation to how work circulates online.

There was an interesting discussion with participants before during and after the Antonio and Jonathan’s talks. Michael Pritchard from the Royal Photographic Society recommended the book Art and Modern Copyright by Elena Cooper.

This event formed part of our regular networking event series for photographers called The Social.

Tips from Jonathan Worth:

Ask yourself what you want to achieve by putting your work online: Ubiquity or your work online can be more valuable than scarcity. If your work is attributed to you and is widely shared, this could more beneficial in the long term in relation to contacts, future work and your profile. 

Choose your license carefully: You can always loosen a licence, but you can’t tighten it once your work is out there.

Don’t get caught up with copyright: It can be a full-time job policing use of your work online.

Tips from Antonio Roberts:

“The Internet is a copy machine”: Kevin Kelly opens his Technium blog post ‘Better than Free’ from 2008, with this statement. So if you’re interested in profiting from your work, think beyond image rights and royalties when posting your work online.

Look at licensing options: There are a range of difference licenses that can be applied to your creative work. Use the Creative Commons website to work out what’s right for you.

Obtain permission for using other people's images in your own work: You're always at risk of your work being taken down by the copyright holder or by copyright bots. If you find images online that you'd like to incorporate into your own work, always get permission before using them. If not, search for Creative Commons-licenced Copyleft works that permit you to use and remix them.


Antonio Roberts is an artist and curator based in Birmingham, UK. His practices explore what ownership and authorship mean in an age impacted by digital technology.

Jonathan Worth is a former editorial photographer, senior researcher at Newcastle University's Open Lab and Founder of Hubub.