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Copyright Queries



Joint Authorship: Recent case sheds light the test for joint authorship

ucylcjh25 October 2019

A recent case heard by the Court of Appeal,  Kogan v. Martin sheds light on the test which the court needs to apply to decide whether someone is in fact a “joint author” of a work. Joint authors share ownership of the copyright in a work, so the decision whether someone’s contribution is sufficient to make them a joint author can have important consequences, especially if the work has a  significant commercial value. Kogan v. Martin concerns the authorship of the film script for Florence Foster Jenkins a feature film released in  2016. The test for someone to qualify as a joint author is examined in great detail in the Court of Appeal judgment and summarised very well in a post about the case on the IPKat blog

Interesting points which one can take away from this case:

  • It can be misleading to place too much importance on “who pushed the pen” when a collaborator contributing ideas for plot, scenes and characters to a dramatic or literary work can be equally entitled to be recognised as a joint author.
  • The test for authorship, influenced by important case law from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is whether the work is the expression of the person’s own intellectual creation.
  • One can make a smaller contribution but still be a “joint author” if one satisfies the test.

This is interesting in the academic context, where research papers are often published under the names of multiple authors.



Author power

ucylcjh21 June 2019

An interesting  blog post by Shaun Khoo on the Scholarly Kitchen website takes a sceptical look at whether academic authors are likely to gain more leverage in an open access publishing environment.  With current publishing models, the publisher is generally in a more powerful position and the author at a disadvantage in any negotiation. Is that likely to change?

Shaun Khoo quotes some research carried out in the USA by Charbonneau and McGlone the results of which show that 97.8% of the relevant faculty members simply signed the agreement “as is”.

When delivering copyright training to groups of post-graduates I usually stress the importance of reading the terms and conditions of publishing agreements very carefully before signing on the dotted line.

The issue is that the pressure to get their work published in the “high impact” journals in their field leads authors to disregard questions of whether they are assigning copyright to the publisher and, if so, whether the agreement grants them any specific concessions to reuse their own work in ways that they might wish to in the future.

One should underline the importance of being prepared to the negotiate the details with the publisher if there are terms they object to or don’t fully understand. A student recently pointed out  (wisely I think) that, if an author is intending to negotiate, they had better start at as early a stage as possible, before time pressures take over.

On the other hand open access publishing models which apply Creative Commons licences do certainly allow academic authors to retain ownership of the copyright in their papers and with it the freedom to reuse their own work as they wish.


Registering copyright

June Hedges14 October 2011

Increasingly we are being asked how individuals can assert or register copyright in their work. Assuming that you are not publishing with journal or book publisher (or on a recognised web site, etc.), you will retain all rights in your work. In the UK there is no need to register copyright. This is because it automatically arises as soon as a work is recorded in a perceptible format, e.g. a written manuscript, a photograph, work of art, etc.
You may want to identify a work as your own by using the standard copyright symbol © followed by your name and the date the work was created. You may also want to consider applying a Creative Commons Licence to your work to make it clear what types of re-use you will permit.

Commercial services to register copyright do exist. However these services will make a charge to do something that UK Legislation does for creators automatically. The Author’s Licensing and Collecting Society do provide some suggestions of how you might want to ensure that you have proof that you are the creator of a work should there ever be any legal issues: http://www.alcs.co.uk/Authors–rights/All-about-copyright/Registering-copyright