how much right do I have on my project, if there are patches by others?

Matthew Flaschen matthew.flaschen at
Mon Jul 9 02:20:31 UTC 2007

Lawrence Rosen wrote:
> Perhaps Rick and Matthew are both a little confused? Take a look at
>, chapter 2, page 32. 

Thanks.  In general, I've found your book very valuable.  That section
says in part:

"Each contribution to a collective work is owned by its author, and that
author has the exclusive right to decide how that contribution is to be
licensed. A contribution to a joint work is owned by all of its
authors jointly."

Eric and Catherine's essay says:

"The difference is practically relevant because, according to 17 USC 201
the holder of the collective-work copyright is legally privileged to set
the distribution terms for the package as a whole (in the statute, this
expressed negatively as a statement that the collective-work copyright
holder acquires only those rights)."

It seems the essay mentions a single person (presumably the primary
author) holding a collective-work copyright, allowing them to relicense
the whole program without consulting the other authors.

But the book does not mention this, and seems to imply otherwise by saying:

"Relicensing a joint work is, in some ways, easier than reli-
censing a collective work because any one of the authors can
do it without consulting the others, but it may leave some
contributors angry with the results."

If the collective-work copyright holder can relicense without consulting
anyone, that isn't really harder (for them) than it would be for a joint

The statute ( says in part:

"the owner of copyright in the collective work is presumed to have
acquired only the privilege of reproducing and distributing the
contribution as part of that particular collective work, any revision of
that collective work, and any later collective work in the same series."

Is there a conflict here, or am I just misunderstanding again?

Matthew Flaschen

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