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Intellectual property introduction

Intellectual property and the creative sector 1/3. Introduction

05 / 15 / 2018

What is the intellectual property about and why should I be informed? It would be a mistake to think that, as designers, the issue of intellectual property does not affect us, because it really does. When we think of copyright, writers, artists, photographers and little else comes to mind. But the truth is that intellectual property affects the entire creative sector, from musicians to architects, software developers and designers.  

In order to shed some light on this issue, marked by a boringly legal rhetoric and language, we will develop this topic in depth in a series of posts so that you know what it is about and what it consists of.

First of all, you have to know that the law of intellectual property varies a little in each country, but the fundamentals are basically the same: Intellectual property is defined as a mechanism to protect the creation of the mind by establishing in favour of the author several rights and powers, the so-called copyright.

It is necessary to know that just the mere fact of having created a work (and by work we mean not only works of art, text, illustrations and photographs but also architectural or product design plans, musical scores, computer programs, typographies and even musical and theatrical interpretations) entitles you to exercise certain rights over it.

These rights are divided (in Spain and unlike the Anglo-Saxon countries) into copyright, which are the moral rights, by which authorship and paternity are recognized. They are inalienable and unwaiverable and cannot be transmitted. The creator of a work will always be the creator of the work and this must be stated in any disclosure of the work. The author may demand respect for the entirety of the work or performance and the non-altering of it.

The other rights are of a patrimonial nature and are those related to the exploitation of the work, that is, how it is disseminated and distributed. In this case, no one may do so without the permission of the author or – in the event that the author himself has renounced these rights or has died – the copyright holder. The author has the right to demand remuneration in return for the authorization granted to the person wishing to exploit the work commercially.

To give you an example, it means that if you have created a design, no one can use that design without asking permission and you can demand (if you want) a fee to use it. And the other way around. If you want to publish a photograph of another person, you will have to ask permission to do so and pay a fee if the author or his heirs so wish.

In most European countries and in the United States, exploitation rights last for the life of the author plus seventy years from the date of his death. After this time, the work is considered to be in the public domain. If a work is in the public domain, it can be used, disseminated and even modified freely.  

In the next posts, we will see some specific cases related to intellectual property so that you can apply them in your professional environment.