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Home > Creating Copyright > Ownership Factors > Joint Works

Joint Works

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.

Joint ownership
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 otherwise).

  • 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.

Separate works
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.

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Ownership Factors
Ownership Factors
Works Made for Hire
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