Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Copyright and Derivative Work

In the realm of intellectual property, copyright and derivative work gets attention when the issue of collaborative rights arises. Copyright and derivative work controversies happen when the joint contributing plans do not materialize as intended between, for example software developers, researchers, writers, or production designers.
The scenario is similar to one dealt with by the First Circuit in Greene v, Ablon, where coauthors conducted a study to collaborate in the writing a research study that was intended for a book. One of the co-authors had a previous work that was being included in the collaborative piece.  At first glance by the District Court, it determined that a contributed derivative work in to the collaborative subsequent work could not be both joint and derivative.
Conversely on appeal, the court found that a co-authored subsequent project could be both a joint product and as well one with an embedded derivative component. The contribution has copyright value for its author though introduced and incorporated in a subsequent collaborated project.
The appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision regarding joint work by underscoring the Copyright Act’s definition, “a work prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole.”  17 U.S.C. § 101.  The intention of the collaborators is key point.  The appeals court considered the definition of ‘derivative work’ pursuant to the Act as “a work based upon one or more preexisting works.”  17 U.S.C. § 101.
Moreover, the appeals court determined that the author of the previous work holds the copyright on that work and as well holds a copyright on the derivative work that was collaborated on with a co-author using the previous work.  Greene v. Ablon, 794 F.3d 133 (1st Cir. 2015)

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