The Copyright Act preempts the GPL

John Cowan cowan at
Sat Feb 7 02:16:12 UTC 2004

Peter Fairbrother scripsit:

> Yes. In a derivative work, the second author has the right to make copies of
> his contribution to the derivative work, but he has no right at all to make
> copies of the whole derivative work.

[analogous points snipped]

You sound like you are describing a collective rather than a derivative

> He also has no rights in the derivative work as a whole - such rights don't
> exist. There is no copyright in the work as a whole, only seperate
> copyrights in the pre-existing work, and in the added work.

This directly contravenes the text of the statute.  The copyright owner
of a derivative work is a copyright owner with all the rights of a
copyright owner, except that he cannot prevent the creation of other
works derivative of the original work but not based on his contribution.

> Note that copyright only subsists in _original_ works, and not in
> _derivative_ works. A derivative work does not per se have any associated
> copyright - though the parts of it may have associated copyright.

A derivative work is an original work, except insofar as it is derivative.
"Original" here is clearly opposed to "unoriginal".


If you understand,                      John Cowan
   things are just as they are;
if you do not understand,     
   things are just as they are.         jcowan at
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