Many creative works are the result of collaboration, but the artists involved in that collaboration may face significant complexity when establishing copyright of their work. How can creators of intellectual property (IP) protect their rights when co-creating a work?
Is the work a joint work or a collective work?
Copyright in collaborative works often depends on the form that collaboration takes. Joint works are those works created by multiple people as ”inseparable or interdependent” parts of a whole work. This may occur if two authors co-write a book or if painters work together on the same canvas. In these cases, the creators co-own the copyright unless the creators reach another agreement.
Collective works, by contrast, are works in which multiple contributors create independent works that are ”separate and independent works” that can be collected to create a work through their assemblage. One example of this would be an anthology that combines a variety of short stories or articles. In these cases, the contributors would generally hold the copyright for their independent portion of the collected creative work, but they may not necessarily own the copyright for the collected work.
How can co-creators protect their intellectual property?
For many IP creators, protecting their right to a creative work must begin early. As Forbes noted in 2013, it can be particularly important for co-creators to negotiate issues of copyright early on in the creative process. However, it is possible for creators at any stage of the creative process to take steps to protect their IP rights.