505.1 What Is a Joint Work?
The Copyright Act defines a joint work as a work “prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole.” 17 U.S.C. § 101.
A work of authorship is considered a joint work “if the authors collaborated with each other, or if each of the authors prepared his or her contribution with the knowledge and intention that it would be merged with the contributions of other authors as ‘inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole.'” H.R. REP. NO. 94-1476, at 120, reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5659, 5736; S. REP. NO. 94-473, at 103-04. The key requirement “is the intention, at the time the writing is done, that the parts be absorbed or combined into an integrated unit.” H.R. REP. NO. 94-1476, at 120, reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 5736.
A contribution to a joint work is considered “inseparable” if the work contains a single form of authorship, such as a novel or painting, and it is considered “interdependent” if the work contains multiple forms of authorship, such as motion picture, opera, or the music and lyrics of a song. Id.; S. REP. NO. 94-473, at 103-04.