Collaborative Projects and Copyrights

What? It’s 2023 already?

New year, new motto — Don’t sacrifice progress and success for perfection. 

Two writers recently entered into a collaborative project and midway through questions arose about who owns the copyright. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably know the answer relates to joint copyrights.  With joint authors, each party has equal ownership in the copyright. Each contribution must be independently copyrightable in order for a joint work to be copyrightable.  Ideas, directions, and suggestions are not sufficient to elevate someone to author/copyright owner status.

Like any law that governs property ownership, copyright ownership can be transferred to another person or entity by written agreement. With jointly held copyrights, each collaborator can independently, without the consent or knowledge of the other contributor, license or assign away their rights in the work to others unless otherwise in writing.  If you want to be the sole owner of the copyright-protected material, you’d need to tie off the rights by having them assigned to you.  You might agree to give the other collaborator a certain percentage of the profits from the jointly produced work. There are plenty of ways to structure something that is fair based on the time and efforts of the contributors.  

Save yourself mountains of time and horrendous migraines by hiring a lawyer with publishing law experience to draft a collaborative agreement with a copyright assignment of the jointly held copyrights, or at least an agreement with a clear indication of who owns what rights in the creative work. An agreement will define rights, processes, remedies, and variables that arise when two people decide to work jointly on a creative project. It will ensure that expectations regarding control over the work and rights thereto are mutually understood and legally binding.

Tune in to my next blog post for more information on how to handle creative collaborations via agreements. 

Photo Credit:  boltron | VisualHunt

Legal Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes only. Consult a qualified lawyer in your jurisdiction for all legal opinions for your specific situation.  You can read our full legal disclaimer here.

2 thoughts on “Collaborative Projects and Copyrights”

  1. Nice … Just the article I needed to frame a question that’s been shadow-boxing with me for a while…

    Thanks a lot Matt!

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