The Perils of Co-Writing

These thoughts on co-writing first appeared on my official law firm newsletter. You can subscribe to receive this occasional newsletter (or find out how to contact my office) here. I promise, it isn’t spammy!

When two writers want to work together on, for example, a screenplay, you might think all they have to do is each give their writing the best shot until they finish. Right? Well, that’s certainly a great approach, but it leaves each writer open to risk: the risk that the project will go nowhere if they later can’t come to an agreement on who to sell the screenplay to, for example. Or what if one of the writers gives up on the screenplay? Can the other writer finish it and sell it by himself? It depends. Why? Because when two or more writers intend to collaborate in the creation of one single work of authorship, they are both owners of equal, indivisible shares of the work and its copyright, per the relevant provisions of the Copyright Act.

Co-writers and other co-authors are in effect joint authors under Copyright law. And as with joint ownership of real estate, Continue reading