November 16, 2015

Should We Recognize Idea Contributors As Joint Authors?

Timothy John McFarlin, Elon University School of Law and Washington University in Saint Louis, is publishing An Idea of Authorship: Orson Welles, The War of the Worlds Copyright, and Why We Should Recognize Idea-Contributors as Joint Authors in the Case Western Reserve Law Review. Here is the abstract.
Did Orson Welles co-author the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast? The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has told us no, primarily because he only contributed the idea behind the broadcast, and ideas alone can’t be copyrighted. “An Idea of Authorship” challenges this premise — that ideas, no matter how significant, cannot qualify for joint authorship in collaborative works — and argues that we as a society should, under certain circumstances, recognize idea-contributors like Welles as joint authors. We should do so to further our society’s interest in encouraging future creations, as well as out of a sense of equity and fairness to idea-contributors, acknowledging the value of ideas to creative work. Recognizing idea-contributors as joint authors would increase the contractual bargaining power of many of our society’s most creative minds and ultimately better foster the free flow of ideas essential to the constitutional goal of promoting the “Progress of Science and useful Arts.”
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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