Recalibrating the joint authorship test: insights from scientific collaborations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While a scientific journal article is an original literary work for the purposes of copyright law, many contributors listed as “authors” on such articles are not authors for the purposes of copyright; and some contributors who are copyright authors might not be listed as such in the by-line. Although “authorship” might have different meanings to copyright lawyers and to scientists, this concept is challenged in interesting ways by the activities of large collaborations in both contexts (copyright law and science). This article considers whether science’s responses to the challenge of attributing authorship in respect of highly collaborative work might offer any insights for copyright. In particular, the attempts of biomedical science journals to limit authorship claims to dominant contributors are contrasted with the highly inclusive approach taken by particle physics collaborations. It is then argued that although it is important to retain a core legal notion of authorship, this notion ought to be applied in a way that is sensitive to the context in which creativity occurs. The article concludes with some suggestions on how the joint authorship test might be recalibrated in the light of the different ways that large groups create.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-135
Number of pages25
JournalIntellectual Property Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Copyright law
  • Science
  • Authorship
  • Biomedical science
  • Particle Physics
  • Social norms


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