Brief Fact Summary. Aalmuhammed (Plaintiff) sought a declaratory judgment that he was a co-owner of the copyright in a movie and was therefore entitled to an accounting of the profits from the movie.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A person claiming to be a co-owner of a joint work must prove that both parties intended the work to be a joint work.
Issue. Does the contribution of independently copyrightable material to a work intended to be an inseparable whole make the work a joint work?
Held. (Kleinfeld, J.)Â No.Â A joint work is one that was intended by both parties to be a joint work.Â That determination is fact specific.Â The courts will look to, among other things, the apportionment of decision-making authority and the billing accorded the various parties.Â Here, none of the parties made any objective manifestations of intent to be co-authors.Â Specifically, Plaintiff had no supervisory authority over the film and signed a â€œwork for hireâ€ agreement that prevented him from being a co-author.Â Affirmed but remanded for further proceedings on a quantum meruit claim.
Discussion. A social consideration underlies limitations in the definitions of author and of joint work.Â The ability of an author to collaborate or consult with others without the risk of losing ownership in the work encourages the progress of knowledge.