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Rents from Rent All Accrue to Author
Description Professional writer hired to improve Broadway play's script did not obtain co-authorship and, thereby, did not obtain copyright interests in play, which remained with original author.
Topic Intellectual Property
Key Words Copyright
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Cengage claimed that, along with playwright Larson, she co-authored a "new version" of the Broadway hit, Rent. Larson was the original author, but prior to opening on Broadway, he hired Cengage to improve the musical story line. Their contract specified that Cengage would be paid $2,000 and receive billing credit as dramaturg. After the play became a success, Cengage asked for more compensation and was given $10,000 plus $50 a week while the play ran. Cengage sued, demanding 16 percent of the author's share of the royalties as co-author of copyrighted work. Trial court dismissed the complaint; Cengage appealed.
Decision Affirmed. The evidence was clear that Larson was the original author. Contribution even of significant language by Cengage did not automatically suffice to confer co-author status; there must be a finding of mutual intent to find co-authorship. When questions arise, the courts look for factual indicia of ownership and authorship. Evidence was clear that Larson intended to be author: he hired Cengage as dramaturg for fixed sum, and retained all authority over the final work. He was billed as sole author and all contracts regarding Rent listed him as sole author, as Cengage knew.
Citation Cengage v. Larson, 1998 WL 324483 (---F3d.---; 2nd Cir.)
147 F.3d 195 (2nd Cir., 1998)

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