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Joint authorship and collective works

A joint work is a work prepared by two or more individuals, with the intention that their separate contributions be merged into a single work. A joint author can also be an organization or a corporation under the definition of "work made for hire." A person who has merely contributed ideas without actually memorializing those ideas in some tangible form of expression generally cannot be considered an author as a matter of law. 

Absent an agreement to the contrary, authors own the work jointly and equally. Each joint author, therefore, has the right to exercise any or all of the exclusive rights inherent in the joint work. This means that each author can grant third parties permission to use the work on a nonexclusive basis without the consent of other joint authors. Each author may also transfer his or her entire ownership interest to another person without the other joint authors' consent. Each author may also update the work for his or her own purposes. Additionally, each joint author has a duty to account to the other joint authors for any profits received from licensing the joint work.

For a number of reasons, collaborators should try to clarify joint ownership interests in a written (or even an oral) agreement – clarifying such issues as ownership and use issues, rights to revise the works, marketing and sharing of any revenue, and warranties against copyright infringement.

At UC, the ownership of joint works is determined by assessing the category of work for each of the contributors as defined in Section V of the UC Policy on Copyright Ownership.

Collective works

A collective work is generally a compilation, such as a periodical, anthology, or encyclopedia, in which a number of separate and independent works are assembled into one work. If you have contributed to a compilation, it does not change the copyright status of your work.

Copyright in a separate contribution to a published collective work is distinct from the copyright in the collective work as a whole. To create a collective work, an editor or compiler must obtain permission from the copyright owners of the separate parts (assuming such parts are not already in the public domain). Authorship of the collective work as a whole may be claimed, and may include revisions, editing, compilation, and similar effort that went into putting the work into final form.

The owner of copyright in the collective work is presumed to have acquired the privilege of reproducing and distributing the individual contributions only as part of that particular collective work and any revisions that occur.

Although the author of the collective compilation may not own the copyright to any of the individual parts, the particular selection and organization of the constituent materials may be protected by copyright if it's sufficiently creative.

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