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Creative Commons

Glossary of Key Terms

Review this glossary for definitions and related links for key terms related to CC Licenses and Copyright.


"An adaptation is a work based on one or more pre-existing works. What constitutes an adaptation depends on applicable law, however translating a work from one language to another or creating a film version of a novel are generally considered adaptations.

In order for an adaptation to be protected by copyright, most national laws require the creator of the adaptation to add original expression to the pre-existing work. However, there is no international standard for originality, and the definition differs depending on the jurisdiction." From Creative Commons FAQ.


Attribution is the practice of properly attributing works to the original creator. All CC licenses require attribution of the creator "unless the creator has waived that requirement, not supplied a name, or asked that her name be removed. Additionally, you must retain a copyright notice, a link to the license (or to the deed), a license notice, a notice about the disclaimer of warranties, and a URI if reasonable. You must also indicate if you have modified the work—for example, if you have taken an excerpt, or cropped a photo." From CC FAQ.


"Copyright (or author’s right) is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture, and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps, and technical drawings." From WIPO.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is an organization, a worldwide community, and a set of open licenses. "Creative Commons helps you legally share your knowledge and creativity to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world." From 'What we do" Creative Commons.

Exceptions and Limitations

"In order to maintain an appropriate balance between the interests of rightholders and users of protected works, copyright laws allow certain limitations on economic rights, that is, cases in which protected works may be used without the authorization of the rightholder and with or without payment of compensation." From WIPO.

Exclusive Rights

In the US, six exclusive rights granted to rights holders:

The right to produce
The right to create derivative works (eg: adapting a book into a play)
The right to distribute copies, or transfer ownership of the work
The right to perform the work publicly
The right to display the work publicly
The right to perform the work publicly via digital audio transmission (if sound recording)

Fair Use

"Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances. Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use." From US Copyright Office.

Intellectual Property

"Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish." From WIPO.

Moral Rights

The Berne Convention outlines moral rights as: "(1) Independently of the author’s economic rights, and even after the transfer of the said rights, the author shall have the right to claim authorship of the work and to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of, or other derogatory action in relation to, the said work, which would be prejudicial to his honor or reputation." All signatories must provide for at least the moral rights of paternity and integrity. See Moral Rights in US Copyright Law.


"A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. To get a patent, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public in a patent application." From WIPO

Public Domain

"The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it." From Stanford University Libraries.


"A trademark is a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises. Trademarks are protected by intellectual property rights." From WIPO.