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Thomson v. Larson, 147 F.3d 195 (1998) p.300


Joint Works


Dramaturg (person that helped with writing of play) brought action against heirs of principal playwright of Broadway musical "Rent," alleging that dramaturg was co-author of musical and entitled to royalties.


The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Lewis A. Kaplan, J., rejected claim of co-authorship and dismissed remainder of complaint. Dramaturg appealed.


WHether Thomson was a co-author.


To be a joint work, BOTH authors must have the intent to be joint authors when they work on the article in question.


Thomson was not a co-author. The Court of Appeals, Calabresi, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) finding that playwright did not intend for dramaturg to be co-author was supported by evidence, so dramaturg was not co- author, and (2) dramaturg's claim that, if she was not deemed co-author of work, she retained copyright interest in her contributions to work was not properly preserved for review. Affirmed.


No intent of original author to include Thomson as a joint author. Larson was the one who put the material into the computer, not Larson. He had control over the document. Lots of circumstantial evidence was used to try to find out his intent.


A joint work is a work prepared by two or more authors with the intentions that their contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependant parts of a unitary whole. 17 USC 101

Thomson had burden of proof because she was the one who was not on the work. She wanted to be declared a coauthor.

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