A collective work is a collection of independent, separately copyrightable works of authorship, such as a newspapers, magazines, or encyclopedia. An article, column, or short story that has been published in a magazine, newspaper, or other periodical, registered separately is called a “contribution to a collective work.” Copyright in each separate contribution to a collective work is different from copyright in the collective work as a whole. The author of a particular contribution can claim copyright of that contribution. For example, the author of an article contained in a magazine is the copyright owner of such article.
According to the Copyright Act, the initial owner of a work made for hire is the employer or commissioning party, who paid for the work and took the economic risk of it. If an express agreement transferring the copyright or of any rights under it is not present, the owner of the copyright in the collective work shall be 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 that comes in the same series.
A contribution, such as a pictorial or graphic work, to a collective work may appear with its own notice of copyright. However, a single notice covering the collective work as a whole can defeat an “innocent infringement” defense.
In a collective work, the separate contributions remain integrated and disparate. Therefore, it must be distinguished from a “joint work” in which the separate elements merge into a unified whole.