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The Copyright Act says that “the authors of a joint work are co-owners of copyright in the work,” §201, and that “a ‘joint work’ is 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.” §101. The Childress case addresses the question: how does a work become a ‘joint work’ (entitling the authors to co-ownership of the copyright)? Because the court concludes that the work in question is not a joint work, it does not have to go on to consider what happens if the work were a ‘joint work’ and the nature of that co- ownership interest.
The “co-ownership” referred to in §201 has been treated as a kind of “tenancy in common” with respect to the copyright [though not, of course, with respect to ownership of any of the tangible embodiments of the work, see §202]. That is, each co-owner is deemed to own the entire indivisible whole of the copyright, subject to the other co-owners’ similar ownership interest.
There’s a great deal of law about the nature of this co-ownership interest, none of which we will be looking at in this course. It can be summarized roughly as follows:
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