An “author” is not defined by the Act. However, the implication of the Act is that an author is a human that is able to bring about a creative work that can be protected by the Act. This definition also implies that a non-human author, for example, a computer program, could not create copyrightable works on its own; only people can own copyrights.

An author need not directly make the thing to be copyrighted to be the copyright holder. For example, in Lindsay, the plaintiff director had created detailed instructions for an underwater crew to make video footage of the salvage of the Titanic. The plaintiff himself did not travel, for safety reasons, with the underwater crew, and did not personally operate the video equipment to make the footage. However, he did retain authority over what footage was acceptable and what was not, and consistently exercised a directorial role over the film crew. The plaintiff won his claim of authorship to the film and movie rights.

The Act also recognizes works that have joint authors, when the court is able to determine that parties collaborated with the intent of creating a unitary work, and treated each other as authors. For example, the two parties exercised joint say over the final work, and otherwise acted as equals in the work. However, a court will not view a mere contributor to a film as an author for purposes of copyright ownership, even if that contributor’s efforts are important to the film and substantial in nature. This is especially true where the contributor signs a contract acknowledging that he is not an author and does not exercise dominion or control over the final product. See Aalmuhammed v. Lee.

Published by


Maryland technology attorney and college professor.

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