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If a work is "Copyright © year Author One and Author Two" (with no written or verbal agreement between Author One and Author Two regarding regarding ownership), what rights does each individual author have? Can Author One republish the work or create derivative works without the permission of Author Two, or does Author One require permission from Author Two to do this? Any other legal ramifications?

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A copyright notice like that could mean the authors are claiming copyright in different portions of the work, or claiming a joint copyright. With the former, standard copyright law applies with respect to each part, so I'm going to examine the joint copyright aspect.

Broadly speaking, joint works tend to be an unclear and internationally inconsistent area of copyright law and you haven't specified jurisdiction. Since this is an English language site and the US and UK are polar opposites on most of these issues, those will be the jurisdictions I examine.

US

UK

For further information, see this excellent paper by Elena Cooper comparing how US and UK law diverged on this point.

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  • Thank you. This answers my original question. – Herb Feb 2 '19 at 3:22
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Joint work

If there was intent to have joint ownership of the work going in then there is a single copyrighted work and both owners must agree on any dealings with it. Neither owner may use their contributions without such agreement.

Collaborative work

If instead there was no such intention (which having "no written or verbal agreement" seems to indicate) then each author retains their copyright to the material they contributed. Each may deal with their contribution however they wish but they each must have permission to use the other author's work if they wish to deal with the work as a whole.

Implications

Some works do not lend themselves to collaborative work - two authors working on a novel or research paper may find it hard to disentangle just who contributed what to the final product. If author A reproduces work that author B claims was theirs then there are the makings of a dispute. A joint work overcomes that problem as it is known up front that all author's permission is required for everything.

Others work perfectly fine as a collaborative work - anthologies of poems or short stories, different posts on a single blog, even large sculptures or photo collages.

However, the presumption is that a work is collaborative unless the authors are clear that it is joint.

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  • 3
    Can you cite authority for these propositions? – Patrick Conheady Jun 9 '16 at 11:58
  • This answer gives a rule for joint work with is flatly wrong in the US, under 17 USC 101. Any of the joint authors may act for all, but must account for profits and financial dealings to all other authors. It may be that this rule is correct in other countries. – David Siegel Feb 2 '19 at 0:53

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