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Besides reviving Broadway, the musical “Rent” has turned the spotlight on an important and frequently misunderstood copyright issue: When and how do artistic collaborators become joint authors?

The main legal consequences of joint authorship are that (1) each joint author may independently grant non-exclusive licenses to exploit the joint work, subject only to a duty to account to the other co-authors; and (2) absent a written agreement to the contrary, each joint author is entitled to an equal share of the revenues generated by the joint work. See Papa’s-June Music Inc. v. McLean, 921 F. Supp. 1154 (S.D.N.Y. 1996).

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