Can A Company Be An 'Author' For The Purpose Of Copyright?

from the questions,-questions... dept

Paul Keating points us to an analysis of an interesting copyright ruling in Singapore last year, which said that companies can't be "authors" for the purpose of copyright. They can be owners of the copyright, but not the authors:
The Court of Appeal drew a distinction between authorship and ownership. It held that these were not synonymous in that authorship refers to the act of creation whereas ownership refers to the possession of proprietary rights. An author is not necessarily the owner and the owner is not necessarily the author. The Court of Appeal said, definitively, that for the purposes of the Copyright Act, authors had to be living persons. To hold otherwise would run counter to other sections of the Copyright Act, notably the duration of works. The Court held that companies could not claim a perpetual monopoly of copyright ownership based on an assertion of authorship.
The specific case involved horse-racing tables and a dispute between two different horse-racing magazines, with one accusing the other of copyright infringement. Oddly, both magazines seem to admit that the actual data originated from neither magazine, but from the same third party: the Singapore Turf Club. Still, there appears to have been some questions about the layout and design, which could be given some level of copyright protection -- but, apparently, only if it were created by "living humans."

While this specific case may not be all that interesting, it does raise some interesting questions in other areas. For example, there is a growing niche industry of "automated" books being created for sale on Amazon. Many of them take things like public data and compile them into an ebook for sale. There wouldn't be any copyright on such public data, but if something similar was done with some creative input from an automated system, it seems like a rather reasonable argument can (and should!) be made that those books are public domain. I guess it's the automated equivalent of the monkeys taking photographs, where it seemed clear that those, too, were in the public domain, because they weren't created by humans...
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Filed Under: authors, automated creations, copyright, humans, public domain, singapore


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2012 @ 6:37am

    Re: US law is different

    Taking the law on it's face, although work for hire applies to the individual contributions to the collaboration, unless the overall creator is an employee of the company, work for hire should not apply. Whether or not the relationship between the creator and the company constitutes work for hire has no bearing on who the creator is, however it is important in determining if termination rights for that creator exist.

    Furthermore, movie studios by their own admission often recognize that they consider the director to be the overall creator when they publicly market a film as "a film by ". The fact that they put in the fine print at the end of the credits "author for the purpose of copyright" should have no legal bearing. What the hell is that? Either you created something or you didn't. It's like sort of like being "kinda pregnant." "For the purpose of copyright" is nothing more than a transparent attempt to subvert the law and deny the creator his rightful termination rights.

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