I found a picture of a record sleeve for an album independently released in New Zealand, and on the back it says "Anti-copyright (band name) 1986". There is a wikipedia page for "anti-copyright notices" but that feels far too modern (and the examples are more positive/direct directions to reproduce/modify the works)

Does this represent a real or implied waiving of copyright protections for the written songs or the performances on the record? If not, what would the artists have to do to formally waive their rights/commit their work to public domain?

2 Answers 2


In some jurisdictions it is impossible to completely waive the copyright to a work one created. And one could make the legal argument that the term "Anti-copyright" under a work is probably too vague and ambiguous to hold legal weight or that it should be interpreted as a political statement or parody of copyright law rather than a legally valid waiver of copyright. Interestingly, the only way to test this in court would be by the original authors if they would try to enforce intellectual property rights to their work against someone despite their prior "anti-copyright" claim.

However, when an artist wants to give the public the broadest possible permission to use their work in any way they desire, then this can usually be achieved through public licensing. They publish their work and state that it falls under a standardized license which states that the author formally retains their copyright, but gives everyone a perpetual and irrevokabel permission to do everything with the work that is usually protected by copyright. This is in practice equivalent to giving up copyright, but holds up the legal fiction that copyright is still held by the original author. Examples include the Creative Commons CC-0 license, the Unlicense or the Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License.


Yes, it’s legally significant

A court would need to determine objectively what the author meant by providing an ‘anti-copyright” notice.

At the very least, it would bar the author from seeking damages for copyright breach against anyone who relied on the notice. It may go further and prevent any legal action to limit or restrain such a person.

At most, the notice might place the work in the public domain in jurisdictions where this is possible or grant an irrevocable, unconditional licence where it isn’t.

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