Many contributors may lead to:
- Joint works
- Joint ownership
- Separate works
When two or more authors agree that their contributions are to
be merged together to form an inseparable or interdependent combination
of the individual contributions, a joint work may be formed.
The contributions to a joint work do not need to be equal in quality
or quantity, they only need to be copyrightable contributions and
the parties must agree that the work is a joint work.
If a joint work is formed, all joint authors are joint owners of
the entire work (as opposed to each author only owning their own
contribution.) This sets up important issues relating to how the
work may be used and who may authorize any use.
As a co-owner of the entire work, any joint author can:
- Modify, reproduce, and distribute copies of the entire work.
- Grant a nonexclusive license to others to use the work without
obtaining the consent of the other co-authors (but must share
the profits generated from the license unless the authors agree
- Transfer his or her interest to a third party (by written assignment)
without the permission of the other owners.
Joint ownership is often seen as a way to let everyone share in
the credit for a work, but this may not always be desirable in situations
where one author desires control over the timing and forum of publications.
When works are jointly owned, any joint author could authorize publication
without the consent of the other authors.
If all parties do not intend for the work to be joined, a joint
work is not formed and each author would own his or her contributions.
How the work may be used by other contributors would need to be
addressed in an agreement between the parties, preferably in writing.