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17.8 Copyright Interests—Authors of Collective Works (17 U.S.C. § 201(c))

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A copyright owner is entitled to exclude others from copying a collective work. A collective work is a work [such as [a newspaper, magazine or periodical issue] [anthology] [encyclopedia]] in which a number of contributions, constituting separate and independent works in themselves, are assembled into a collective whole. The person who assembles the contributions of independent works into the collective work is an author and is entitled to copyright. Copyright in a collective work is distinct from copyright in the separate contributions to the work. In the absence of an express transfer of a copyright, these rights include only the right to reproduce and distribute the separate contributions that make up the collective work and the right to revise that collective work.

A copyright owner of a collective work may enforce the right to exclude others in an action for copyright infringement.


See 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of collective work author) and 17 U.S.C. § 201(c) (in the absence of express copyright transfer by a contributor to the compilation, it is presumed that the copyright owner of the collective work acquires only the "privilege of reproducing and distributing the contribution as part of that particular collective work, any revision of that collective work, and any later collective work in the same series"). Whether a contribution to a collective work has been distributed as part of a "revision" depends on how it is presented and how it is perceived by the users in terms of its context. See New York Times Co., Inc. v. Tasini, 533 U.S. 483, 500 (2001) (use of contributions to periodicals and other collective works in databases).

Several sections of the Copyright Act concern the placement of the copyright notice in a collective work and on the contributions to the collective work. A different treatment applies if a collective work is covered by the Berne Convention Implementation Act, 17 U.S.C. § 405(a) (e.g., works distributed after March 1, 1989). See also Abend v. MCA, Inc., 863 F.2d 1465, 1469 (9th Cir.1988), aff’d, 495 U.S. 207 (1990).