What is Copyleft?

According to GNU (who originated the copyleft license widely used in software) "Copyleft is a general method for making a program (or other work) free (in the sense of freedom, not 'zero price'), and requiring all modified and extended versions of the program to be free as well."

Copyleft is a system of Open Source protection which uses copyright law to defend freedom and collaboration. The term Copyleft is a play on the word Copyright, because it is valid by copyright and contract laws yet flips copyright on its head by having an open collaborative approach to using those rights.

What is the Open Source Plants Movement?

The Open Source Plants Movement is a new wave of OpenBio movement which brings together the traditional open source sentiments of strength through community, mutual aid, and freedom, with important plant related issues such as farmer rights, indigenous perspectives, and the realities of plant breeding. The OpenBio movement came out of the open source software movement and has gotten global recognition in recent years.

How does Copyleft apply to plant medicines?

It is reasonable to infer that copyright rights are due to plant breeders who write genetic code in a similar way as software programmers and film script writers have copyright rights.

By that understanding of copyright law, when an author, programmer, or breeder creates a new work of art and records it, i.e. a new cultivar is produced, genetically sequenced, and published, the author/programmer/breeder has a right to set use-terms and copyright terms when they distribute it. These are very difficult to draft, organize, and enforce as an individual but very do-able as a community coalition.

Copyleft uses those use-terms and rights to protect its code/genetics as an open source community good and thereby deter issues for the creator as well as users and prevent prohibition-by-patent, entrenching the freedom of its users and the right to repair.

How do we help the preservation of plant medicine genetics?

In a world which is rapidly changing, the genetics information and history of medicinal plant cultivars/strains is highly threatened. We believe that greater freedom of use and a framework which encourages sharing for mutual benefit, leads naturally to a more stable population of important cultivars kept alive through many hands in the community.

We can encourage this distribution of vital cultivars while we start to protect, document, publish, and make use-able, the vast array of information about these cultivars being developed around the world, in a way which puts the community and the accessibility of the information front-and-center, accelerating development to the benefit of all members of the ecosystem.

We do this in a way which avoids the single point of failure issue of fragility in privatized pockets of information, instead championing open freedom-assured community sharing of information and material access thereby improving long term survival and proliferation of important diverse genetic material and plant medicine information.

How does the community benefit from our Copyleft approach?

Among additional benefits to the community, the Copyleft systems may:

  • Protect and deter from predatory IP litigation (as seen to have devastated many industries such as corn),

  • Defend small actors from big corporations,

  • Assure Biodiversity and Open Progress of vulnerable plants,

  • Protect and deter from Prohibition-by-patent which is inherently governmentally enforced,

  • Prevent Genetic Bottlenecking,

  • Make large amounts of genetic and cultivation information largely available for scientific research and public breeding development worldwide,

  • Create a system for centralized certification of Genetic Authenticity,

  • Resolve interbreeder cultivar origin disputes,

  • Offer Community Preservation Support, and

  • Assure availability of freedom-assured and constantly updating breeding stock for new and established breeders

How do open source seeds benefit farmers?

The Open Source Seed Initiative, a group which protects vegetables in a similar but less enforceable method to our system, put it very well here:

"Pledged seed preserves the farmer’s right to save, replant, share, breed, and sell seed. It is this fundamental right that is now being eroded globally as transnational seed companies push for the worldwide expansion of restrictive seed laws and intellectual property rights. The independent farmer has long been the basis of food security for local communities and in many countries is the first line of defense against hunger. With use-restricted seeds, a farmer is unable to plant a new crop without purchasing new seed from an outside supplier. Whether the cause is cataclysm or merely economics, no seed means the farmer produces no crop. Open source, unrestricted seed allows the farmer to plant again if the patented seeds are unavailable, unwanted or unaffordable."

Why do breeders & cultivators need protection and defense for the medicinal plant cultivars they work with?

Once the Federal Court System is open to medicinal plants IP Litigation, as with all established industries as they emerge, Breeders and Cultivators will face many new dangers. These dangers are exemplified by these four facts:

  • “More than 10,000 [tech] companies have been sued at least once by a patent troll, and patent trolls file 84 percent of high-tech patent lawsuits a year.”(TechCrunch May 4 2017.)

  • The Average cost of Patent Litigation is $2.8 Million USD (The American Intellectual Property Law Association).

  • LLCs and Businesses have no right to self representation in court, thus must pay exhaustive lawyers fees or lose litigation by default.

  • 4,204 IP Lawsuits were fought in 2020 alone (WIPO.int).

Breeders and Cultivators must ask themselves, "do I have the financial war chest, legal expertise, and personal stress tolerance to handle being involved in Federal Court Intellectual Property (IP) Litigation?"

How can Copyleft Cultivars protect the people and plant medicines within the commons?

Creating a nonprofit organization with Intervenor rights via the copyleft license allows for the nonprofit to step into legal issues related to the Copyleft Protected cultivars. This way, the Nonprofit can enable community coalitions, allowing many individuals to pull together in protection and defense of each other (your fellow community members), the community commons ecosystem, and the people who are a part of it. This also helps assure the continued biodiversity of the medicine plants and gather data that will be available for research that benefits the community.

Can I still make money with my seeds and/or plant products if they are open source?


Breeders and cultivators can still sell their products as they would otherwise, now with the additional peace of mind knowing they are protected and that they have contributed to a brighter future for the community and for themselves. This may even increase real market value and sales, because of the plethora of consumer benefits, as it has with open source software.

How can the Copyleft license facilitate the safety of my business?

The Copyleft License is crafted to help assure your safety and protect you in your breeding, production, sales, services, etc. This is done by protecting you and the pledged genetics from predatory litigation, prohibition-by-patent, privatization, corporate IP takeover, baseless seed litigation (as seen with Monsanto with 400+ court cases against small corn farmers), and other IP issues common in most established industries.

As the Beneficiary Intervenor and Protector of your contributions to the community common, Copyleft Cultivars has your back and have the back of those who use the freedom-assured Copylefted Varietals, thus letting you stay out of any Copyright Fight and allowing you to focus on your life and livelihood instead. This protection can be seen as value-added for the product you distribute and the cultivars you create.

Ok, but is open source an effective business model?

Yes, open source is a very effective business model.

It consistently gives competitive advantage and larger market share. In fact, Open Source Software now holds the largest market share of the USD $429.59Billion software market. Eric Raymond has written extensively on open source economics, why open source software has succeeded in the market over closed source, and how companies can implement open source strategies for optimal success. He stated in The Magic Cauldron essay:

“Open, shared infrastructure gives its participants competitive advantages. One is lower cost per participant to produce salable products and services. Another is a market position that reassures customers that they are much less likely to be stuck with orphaned technology as a result of one vendor's change in strategy or tactics.”

And further,

"We observed; that open-source infrastructure creates trust and symmetry effects that, over time, will tend to attract more customers and to outcompete closed-source infrastructure; and it is often better to have a smaller piece of such a rapidly-expanding market than a bigger piece of a closed and stagnant one. Accordingly; an open source play for ubiquity is quite likely to have a higher long-term payoff than a closed-source play for rent from intellectual property."

Is Copyleft Cultivar's approach compatible or adversarial with other intellectual property protections, such as trademarking and patenting?

Our Copyleft system is compatible and complementary with most other forms of Intellectual property protections, so long as they refrain from perpetrating predatory litigation against the copyleft community at-large, and respect the freedom-assuring terms of use when used in combination with the copyleft system.

Trademarking of "strain names", for example, may offer additional protection and economic benefits for breeders and cultivators, while at the same time one could also register the genetics of that cultivar/strain in the copyleft cannabis system here.

We hope to create a community coalition, an alliance of sorts, between the Copyleft Cannabis Project, other open source projects, NFT systems, defensive patent holders and PVPA rights holder in the medicinal plants space that will together support each other and prevent in-fighting, thereby creating a robust backbone for community defense on a larger scale.

If I pledge a cultivar, do I need to release the seeds publicly?

No, but it may be beneficial to the future of the cultivar. The standard Copyleft licenses do not affect nor require anything of how openly you do or do not distribute it, as long as If you do you, you include the Copyleft license terms as part of your distribution and abstain from patenting or otherwise restricting it.

We are exploring creating other licenses that could be chosen from, which add ethical duty of care to prevent human rights abuses by users of the cultivars, and ones which mandate physical seed sharing. The standard CCGL will not mandate seed sharing or any replication of the seeds, but does encourage it.

What about strains/ varietals which have already been publicly released?

New Strains/Cultivars must be pledged prior to wide public distribution in order to be protected by Copyleft. We cannot retroactively protect already-released cultivars, as they are either under other use-terms or in the public domain by default.

Cultivars in the public domain remain vulnerable to trolling, piracy, and future forms of prohibition by privatization. Under the current laws in place, we cannot intervene to defend you from litigation involving public domain cultivars. The one exception is tester seed packets which were distributed in limited quantities along with an explicit written notice that they are “Tester Seeds” or “For Test Purposes Only”.

Can you help me with legal troubles involving non-copylefted cultivars?

Unfortunately not. The Beneficiary Intervenor Status of the Copyleft Pledge gives us the ability to intervene in civil cases involving Only the intellectual property asset (the cultivar, traits, and genetics, in this case.) Thus we can only defend breeders, cultivators, and other groups that use Copyleft pledged and protected Cultivars which are in our database.

If I breed with a Copyleft protected cultivar, what is the IP status of the offspring?

The offspring of a Copyleft protected Cultivar will themselves also be Copyleft protected. That means if they are distributed they must be distributed with the same Copyleft terms/license/protection, and prior to distribution, should be logged into the Copyleft system. Because the parentage is already genetic tested and published, the submission of genetic sequencing data may not be necessary but the opportunity to do genetic sequencing should be made available to the Copyleft Cultivars organization for publication. We are in discussions with cannabis genetics experts to determine how many generations from a databased parent breeders may go without needing to again test the genetics and submit them to the database to continue the protections and contribute to scientific advancement.

How does this approach protect from issues seen previously with other groups’ public fiascos related to genomic galaxy building?

Unlike other groups which have caved under profit-motive when creating an open genetic nexus for cannabis, we are completely free of any direct founding influence from any for-profit company.

We are a small group of individual community members, many of us from the medical marijuana movement, driven by the desire to help protect the medicinal plants and medicinal plant communities which have helped us in so many ways. We are growers and breeders who started this project because we love this plant and the people who work with it. We love freedom and we love the powerful community that can be created in spaces of assured freedom.

Why a nonprofit?

To protect the integrity of our mission, the organization will be a Nonprofit, bound by its filings to serve the community instead of having any shareholders. The legal documents which form the backbone of the organization are drafted very carefully to make profit-driven exploitation and corporate piracy impossible.

Will the Copyleft Cultivars database ever be used by the organization for private breeding of any sort?

Notably, we will never use, and won’t even be able to use, the genetic information submitted to develop privatized cultivars nor to pitch investors secret proprietary breeding programs, as other groups have done. Pledging cultivars via a Copyleft Creative Commons license legally prevents anyone including our organization itself from privatizing them or their offspring.

(Note, this approach still allows use of the copylefted cultivars for legitimate profit-making, such as producing products, i.e. seeds or flower, as explained briefly in other questions here.)

What will Copyleft Cultivars do with the genetic sequences of submitted cultivars?

We aim to assemble a public genetics nexus with submitted cultivars. The genetic information will be put in the genetic library which links it to similar genetic strains/varietals in an interactive data visualization, made publicly available. In this, we will register the breeder as the public originator of the genetics, thereby putting to rest any community controversy regarding who bred which strain and the breeding history if bred from already-pledged cultivars. Ideally we will then be able to link to allied seed banks where they will offer certified seeds for the copyleft-protected cultivars/strains.

Use Terms for seeds generally have a use terms notice and agreement on packaging. What will be the notice for Copyleft Cultivars protected seeds?

There will be a bag tag (use license label) for each license. The core protection license, CCGL (Copyleft Cannabis Genetic-backed License), has a bag tag in its main text. We also have a community created stand-alone bag tag that carries some but not all of the benefits and protections of the CCGL and is much less solidly enforceable.

How does this benefit breeders contracted or employed by private companies?

Agreeing with your employer or contractor to Copyleft Pledge the cultivars you develop in your work with them has many benefits for you and your employer. For Breeders, it will protect them from losing access to their work upon termination, which is unfortunately common with closed source agriculture. A quick overview of the most expensive IP litigation cases involving Strawberries shows this is a major and recurring concern from contracted or employed breeders. We are working on a form contract that can be used in this case to protect the breeder and the other parties in formal breeding collaborations.

What legal jurisdiction is / will this be in?

We are formed as a domestic Nonprofit in Oregon because of the location of some of our founders and the favorable jurisdiction to this type of work, medicinal plants freedoms, and farmer freedom. Our systems will serve the whole country and if possible also the whole world, toward interconnecting the global medicinal plant ecosystem to prioritize farmer freedom, collaboration, and common good!

Will there be a dispute process? For example, what if one breeder claims another breeder used their genetics without permission?

Yes there will be, and it will first have a non-court arbitration option through our organization, facilitated by the Genetics database and submitted evidence. This will avoid costly court fees and liability for each party while resolving the issue for the community. If absolutely necessary to protect the integrity of the copyleft protections and the database, civil courts may be used. We are working to envision this process and welcome your input.

Can I charge royalties for commercial use of the genetics I submit to Copyleft Cultivars?

Our license is intended to assure freedom, without affecting your ability to make money from your work. If you wish to add commercial use-terms for royalties you may be free to pursue creating those terms with separate legal services. We cannot give you legal advice regarding royalties on copyleft protected cultivars. At all times, adherence to the license status of the cultivars is absolutely necessary. If you'd like to chat with us about pursuing this, please have your qualified legal assistance team or a law firm representing you reach out to our organization to explore that possibility, copyleftcultivars@gmail.com .

Where can I get Copyleft Cultivars pledged seeds?

Copyleft Cultivars is not a seed company. Rather, we will work with seed companies who are interested in supporting our mission.

When up and running, we will link cultivars in our public database to where they are available on seed banks. They may also be available directly from the plant breeder, depending on the variety. If you are a seed company who would like to be more directly involved please email copyleftcultivars@gmail.com

How can I contribute skills or funds to make this happen?

If you have skills you'd like to contribute skills or funds to the Copyleft Cultivars please email us at copyleftcultivars@gmail.com or join the discord. We are especially looking for programmers and attorneys with experience working with Creative Commons or plant IP, and experienced nonprofit professionals. We very much appreciate the help because we are a small but dedicated of-the-community-for-the-community team.

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