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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.