An Idea of Authorship: Orson Welles, The War of the Worlds Copyright, and Why We Should Recognize Idea-Contributors as Joint Authors

68 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2015 Last revised: 29 Apr 2016

See all articles by Timothy McFarlin

Timothy McFarlin

University of La Verne College of Law

Date Written: November 14, 2015

Abstract

Did Orson Welles co-author the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast? The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has told us no, primarily because he only contributed the idea behind the broadcast, and ideas alone can’t be copyrighted. “An Idea of Authorship” challenges this premise — that ideas, no matter how significant, cannot qualify for joint authorship in collaborative works — and argues that we as a society should, under certain circumstances, recognize idea-contributors like Welles as joint authors. We should do so to further our society’s interest in encouraging future creations, as well as out of a sense of equity and fairness to idea-contributors, acknowledging the value of ideas to creative work. Recognizing idea-contributors as joint authors would increase the contractual bargaining power of many of our society’s most creative minds and ultimately better foster the free flow of ideas essential to the constitutional goal of promoting the “Progress of Science and useful Arts.”

Keywords: copyright law, collaboration, authorship, joint authorship, writing, war of the worlds, orson welles, radio, hollywood, howard koch, entertainment, journalism, media, culture, art, creativity, intellectual property

Suggested Citation

McFarlin, Timothy, An Idea of Authorship: Orson Welles, The War of the Worlds Copyright, and Why We Should Recognize Idea-Contributors as Joint Authors (November 14, 2015). 66 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 701 (2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2690926

Timothy McFarlin (Contact Author)

University of La Verne College of Law ( email )

320 East D Street
Ontario, CA 91764
United States

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