Copyright – who gets a piece of the pie?

Written by | October 25, 2022


Collaboration with others on a piece of work is a great way to bring your ideas to life, opening up new perspectives and fostering greater innovation.

But who owns the copyright when works are jointly created?

Ideally, you would want to have a collaboration agreement in place that contractually specifies what’s been agreed; but, in the absence of that, statute and case law both give us some guidance…

STATUTE: Section 10 (1) of the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) defines a work of joint ownership as “a work produced by the collaboration of two or more authors in which the contribution of each author is not distinct from that of the other author or authors.”

So what does this mean?

We can dissect this into two parts:

  1. A collaborative piece of work produced by two or more authors and;
  2. In which the contributions cannot be separated and extracted (in which case each author would own their own contributions separately).

But how much collaboration are we talking about?

CASE: Martin — vs — Kogan

This case concerned a dispute over the authorship of the screenplay ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’.

Martin was a writer, and Kogan was an opera singer. They had been in a relationship and it was claimed by Kogan, that they jointly produced the earlier screenplay scripts. Martin, however, was on another page (no pun intended!). He brought proceedings against Kogan for a claim that he was the sole author and owner of the copyright.

After a lengthy battle, and with help from our friends over at the Court of Appeal, it was held that Kogan was a joint author. In this case, the Court of Appeal provided some much-needed guidance on the law of joint ownership – some key points were:

  • A work of joint authorship is a work produced by the collaboration of the individuals who created it.
  • It will be a collaboration where individuals undertake to jointly create a work with a common design and where the labor is shared.
  • To be classed as a joint author there must be a level of intellectual creation.
  • A joint author’s contributions should meet a sufficient level of skill and be ‘authorial’.
  • The respective shares of joint authors are not required to be equal, but can reflect the relative amounts of their contributions.

What should I do to avoid a dispute?

Regardless of who it is that you decide to collaborate with, make sure that you have an agreement in place that is clear on copyright ownership and what each owner can do with the work, remuneration, and attribution.

For queries on joint authorship, as well as support with drafting collaboration agreements, please get in touch.

Written by Shamina Knights – Solicitor

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