Intellectual Property and Authors' Rights: general concepts
What is intellectual property?
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) classifies the different aspects of intellectual property into two main branches: industrial property rights (brands, patents, industrial design, designation of origin) and intellectual property rights (authors’ rights and related rights).
In Spanish legislation, intellectual property only comprises the latter of these two branches.
Authors' rights is defined as a set of rights by a natural person over their work, be it of literary, artistic or scientific nature; legal persons may also be entitled to rights over intellectual properties. The laws aim to make the works of authors always recognised and work towards guaranteeing that they obtain benefits for their intellectual work and their contributions to culture and science, benefits which are recognised during a limited time.
What are authors' rights?
Authors' rights are defined as a set of legitimate rights of a natural person over their work, be it of literary, artistic or scientific nature; legal persons may also be entitled to rights over intellectual properties. The legislation states that the author may obtain benefits for his/her intellectual work and contribution to culture in general, during a limited time.
The authors' rights are:
- Moral rights, non-waivable and inalienable, such as the right of attribution and the right of the integrity of the work.
- Economic rights, transferable and of limited duration, basically rights to exploitation.
What are exploitation rights?
The author has the right to use their work in any manner or form. This includes the rights to authorise the reproduction, distribution, public communication and transformation of their work. A work cannot be exploited without the author's consent, except in cases provided for by law.
What is public domain?
It is the situation in which literary, artistic and scientific works find themselves in when exploitation rights expire. A work existing in the public domain may be used by anyone as long as their authorship and physical integrity are respected.
Spanish laws regarding copyrights surpass the life of the author and are maintained until 70 years after the death of the author. Once this period has passed, the work goes on to form part of the public domain.
What is a copyright?
Copyright is the Anglo-Saxon formula to designate a work’s exploitation rights only; there is no connection to moral rights. In fact, this is considered to the basic right, prior to any exploitation, and this is why it has become the identifying symbol for all exploitation rights. The symbol © associated to a name indicates the holder of exploitation rights. The use of the symbol is not obligatory.
Normally, although not necessarily, it is followed by the expression “all rights reserved”. It is also used to record the rights of others who have take part in the dissemination of the work, such as the translator or publishing house in charge of publishing the work.
What is right to quote?
Article 32 of the Spanish Intellectual Property Law includes the right to quote, which allows for quoting excerpts of copyrighted works, except for university text books and manuals.
How long will I have the exploitation rights over my work once it is published?
Exploitation rights surpass the life of the author and last 70 years after the death of the author. Once this period has passed, the work goes on to form part of the public domain.
How can I maintain the rights of use of my work?
All exploitation rights belong to the author, who can transfer them for an economic compensation or for free. To prevent involuntary exclusive transfers, there are a series of tools which can come in handy: Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine by Science Commons, which generates a PDF which is annexed to the copyright agreements of the publishers, a tool with legal value which guarantees that specific rights are retained.
Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine:
Creative Commons licences:
Materials available online
Although works found on the internet seem to be of free use, they are in reality subject to the conditions set down by their authors or owners. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to the information regarding intellectual property offered on the website.
- Real Decreto Legislativo 1/1996, de 12 de abril, por el que se aprueba el texto refundido de la Ley de Propiedad Intelectual
- Propiedad Intelectual. lnformación general. Ministerio de Cultura
- Drets d'autor a la universitat (UAB)