Project Harmony decloaks
Posted Apr 12, 2011 17:17 UTC (Tue) by wahern
In reply to: Project Harmony decloaks
Parent article: Project Harmony decloaks
The law that governs joint works is almost entirely Common Law. The 1976 Copyright Act punted because the issues become extremely complex. The House Report on S. 201 (Ownership of Copyright) had this to say:
There is also no need for a specific statutory provision concerning the rights and duties of the coowners of a work; court-made law on this point is left undisturbed. Under the bill, as under the present law, coowners of a copyright would be treated generally as tenants in common, with each coowner having an independent right to use or license the use of a work, subject to a duty of accounting to the other coowners for any profits.
As far as I remember the only portion of the Copyright Act which has anything substantive to say is the definition of a joint work in section 101:
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. 17 U.S.C. 101.
But you have to understand that there are "joint works", "collective works", "compilations", "works for hire", and a host of other legal definitions that touch upon how rights are apportioned. What you describe is more like a collective work, but it's certainly possible to have a joint, collective work. Whether something is or is not a joint work can be an extremely contentious issue among judges and scholars alike.
(I have a PDF of Title 17, including all the committee commentary, that I found on a Congressional FTP server. I don't have the link anymore, though.)
The best case I can find on the subject of joint work licensing says:
A co-owner may grant a non-exclusive license to use the work unilaterally, because his co-owners may also use the work or grant similar licenses to other users and because the non-exclusive license presumptively does not diminish the value of the copyright to the co-owners. Davis v. Blige, 505 F.3d 90, 100 (2d Cir. 2007)
The court goes on to explain that to grant an exclusive license the co-owners must [unanimously] agree. (If I said majority earlier I got that wrong, it seems.)
The reasoning and dicta in that case actually bolsters my point. It involved a joint work where one co-owner tried to retroactively grant a license to an infringer. The appellate court wouldn't allow it for all the obvious, intuitive reasons (notwithstanding that the trial court bought the argument). But my argument isn't about retroactive licensing, it's about prospective licensing to cut off injunction. I didn't spot any citations or holdings on foreclosing injunction, but it stands to reason and it's entirely in harmony with the 2d Circuit's explication.
But I AM NOT A LAWYER, and I'M NOT GIVING LEGAL ADVICE. I'm just a programmer and law school student. Needless to say, if you ever have a serious legal question, talk to a practicing attorney. At least they have insurance you might be able recover against if they screw up.
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