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The Copyright Act's definition of "joint work," a work prepared by multiple authors "with the intention that their contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole," 17 U.S.C.S. § 101, suggests that such inseparable contributions are not themselves "works of authorship." Copyright may subsist in contributions to a collective work, 17 U.S.C.S. § 201(c) (Copyright in each separate contribution to a collective work is distinct from copyright in the collective work as a whole), but only when such contributions constitute "separate and independent" works. 17 U.S.C.S. § 101 (A "collective work" is a work, such as a periodical issue, anthology, or encyclopedia, in which a number of contributions, constituting separate and independent works in themselves, are assembled into a collective whole). The requirement that contributions be "separate and independent" in order to obtain their own copyright protection (also) indicates that inseparable contributions integrated into a single work cannot separately obtain such protection.
16 Casa Duse, LLC, ("Casa Duse") is a film-production company based in Brooklyn, New York. The company is owned and operated by Robert Krakovski. Alex Merkin is a film director, producer, and editor. Maurice Reichman is an attorney who represented Merkin in some of his dealings with Casa Duse. This is an appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granting summary judgment to Casa Duse on its copyright and state-law claims, dismissing Merkin and Reichman’s copyright counterclaims, and awarding Casa Duse costs and attorney's fees.
Does a contributor to a creative work whose contributions are inseparable from, and integrated into, the work maintain a copyright interest in his or her contributions alone?
Because the court agreed with the district court that Casa Duse owned the copyright to all versions of the work in question, and that copyright did not subsist in individual contributions to that film, the district court properly granted summary judgment to Casa Duse on its copyright claims and did not abuse its discretion in enjoining Merkin from interfering with Casa Duse’s use of the film. The court also held that the district court did not err in granting Casa Duse’s motion for attorney's fees even though the motion was filed prior to entry of judgment, nor did it err in concluding the Copyright Act allowed a party that has not registered a copyright to recover costs and fees under specified circumstances.