Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, 3rd Edition

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804.7 Derivative Dramatic Works

804.7 Derivative Dramatic Works

Derivative authorship in dramatic works occurs when copyrightable additions or other changes are made to one or more preexisting works, such as:

• Revisions, including updating or editing dialog, scenes, and other dramatic elements of a preexisting play.

• Adapting a novel or motion picture into a play or vice versa.

• Translating a play from one language to another.

In each case, the author of the derivative work must have permission to use the preexisting work if the preexisting work is protected by copyright, and there must be sufficient new original authorship to register the new work as a derivative work. If it appears that the dramatic work is based on a copyrighted work and permission to use has not been obtained, the registration specialist will communicate with the applicant.

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