Welcome to our glossary of intellectual property terminology.

Here you will find some brief and concise definitions for concepts and terms commonly used when speaking about intellectual property and copyrights.

The list goes in alphabetical order.

We hope this serves to solve your doubts. Please, if you find any mistakes or a broken link, or you think that some definition should be updated, send us a message through the contact page so we can keep improving this glossary. We are also open to suggestions if you would like to recommend any additional terms. Thanks!



Berne Convention

The “Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works” (1886) contains a series of provisions that determine the minimum protection to be granted to copyrights, in all its signatory countries.

Its three main principles are:

  1. If the author is a citizen of a signatory country of the Berne Convention, their work is protected in all the other signatory countries.
  2. Copyright protection of works is automatic. It does not require any formal compliance procedure.
  3. Protection is applied even when the laws of the work’s country of origin do not grant it.

On the other hand, when the term of protection of copyrights is longer in the country of origin (longer than the minimum prescribed by the Convention, that is, 50 years), the longer term has priority.

For further information:


Signatory countries of the Convention as of 2016:

Berne Convention Signatory Countries, 2016

For further information, the complete list of countries can be found at the official website of the World Intellectual Property Organization. You will also find the complete text of the Berne Convention



This is a  term commonly used to comprise all forms of license used by authors to release some of their rights. For instance: the right to make copies of the work, with or without a commercial purpose. Creative Commons licenses and GNU are examples of licenses which are said to be copyleft.

More information:



This term comprises all the rights creators have over their works. It is divided into two types of rights:

  • Moral rights: These are copyrights referring to the personal link between creator and work. For example, the right of attribution.
  • Patrimonial rights: These are copyrights related fundamentally to the economic exploitation of the work.

It is also common to see this term used as a synonym for “All rights reserved”, which is the default state of any work. It means the author owns all the rights over it, moral and patrimonial unless otherwise specified.


Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization whose mission is the development and management of models of licenses, which authors can use to release some of their rights.

By extension, licenses developed by the organization are also called “Creative Commons”.

By Using these licenses, an author can set certain conditions for the use of their work by others. These are the terms to sum the conditions up:

  • (NC). Non-commercial. The work cannot be used for a commercial purpose.
  • (ND). Non-derivatives. Derivative works can’t be made.
  • (BY). Attribution. The author must be referenced as specified.
  • (SA). Share-alike. The person creating derivative works must share them under the same license as the original.

When combined, they form the six main types of Creative Commons licenses. When any of these conditions is missing, it means the author has released that right and it isn’t a required condition.

  • Attribution. CC BY.
  • Attribution – Share-alike. CC BY-SA
  • Atribución – Non-derivatives. CC BY-ND
  • Attribution – Non-commercial. CC BY-NC
  • Attribution – Non-commercial – Share-alike. CC BY-NC-SA
  • Attribution – Non-commercial – Non-derivatives. CC BY-NC-ND

We should mention one more: Creative Commons Zero, or CC0.

This license means a work belongs to the Public Domain. It can be shared, modified, sold, etc. and there is no need to quote the original author in any explicit way, or contact them to let them know.

(Note: local legislations can limit the impact of this license, since some of the don’t permit a work to be public domain before a certain period of time. In those cases, this license would work in a way similar to a CC BY, instead of a CC0).


Cumulative Protection

It is the protection of a work through both copyright and industrial property rights simultaneously. This special consideration is recognized in most of the world’s legislations, and it serves to protect works which have a double nature, artistic and technical.

The case of industrial designs.

When it comes to industrial design, for instance, copyright can be used to protect non-functional aspects of the work. More information about the protection of industrial design using Safe Creative.


Fair Use

It is the group of law criteria to establish in which cases a work can be used without permission from the author. It may change depending on the country, but these are some of the aspects which are usually taken into account:

  • Whether the use had a commercial purpose, or an educational purpose.
  • The size of the fragment that was used.
  • The economic impact on the author and the potential market of the work.


Industrial Property

Works which have a function predominantly technical, practical, or commercial. For example patents of inventions, brands, industrial designs, and origin designations.

In certain cases, these works can also have certain aesthetic aspects that make them fit to be protected by copyrights. This is known as cumulative protection.

Example and further information about the cumulative protection of industrial designs.


Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property (PI) comprises all works produced by the human mind, such as artistic works, literary, academic, inventions, symbols, or commercial brands.

It is divided into two categories: industrial property and copyright. Each one of them covers a specific scope and protects different types of works, but on certain occasions, the line between them can be blurred or even overlap. Such is the case of industrial design. When a work can be protected by both industrial property rights and copyright, we are talking of cumulative protection.



It is the authorization the author grants to use or exploit the work, under certain conditions. Licenses can be granted through a contract between the author and the interested parties, or linking a generic licensing text to the work. The last one would be the case of using a Creative Commons or a GNU license.

In other words: you can sign a contract with a publishing house that is going to market your new book; or you can submit the book to the Internet, indicating that it can only be used and shared without commercial purposes and referencing the author (a Creative Commons BY-NC license). In both cases, we would be talking about licensing.



It is the concession, granted by a State, to commercially exploit a new product or technology. The concession is valid for certain geographical areas, and for a limited period of time.


Private Copy

It is the right that allows users to generate a copy of a work for personal and non-commercial use, without the need for a license or explicit permission from the author.

Its regulation depends on each country’s legislation.


Public Domain

It is the state works reach when their copyright protection is over. Once this happens, any person can use the works, as long as they respect the moral rights of the author.
The time a work takes until it becomes part of the public domain may depend on each legislation. Minimum protection, according to the Berne Convention, is 50 years after the author’s death, but in certain countries, this term lasts longer.


Related rights

These are the rights of third parties who are involved in the work’s distribution. These rights do not act on the work itself, but on certain actions that these people perform in order to share the work with the public.

Related information: Rome Convention



The person or entity who can legally exercise their rights over a work, be it for authorship or thanks to a licensing. For example, a publishing house who owns the distribution rights for a novel in England for two years.