Derivative Works

   
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Software Licenses   >   Glossary   >   Derivative Works

   
 

Derivative Works


In copyright law, a derivative work is a copyrighted work which includes significant copyrighted aspects of a previously created work. It is worth noting that a work can be a derivative work of more than one previous work if it includes copyrighted elements of each of these previous works.

In United States law, "derivative work" is defined by is defined in 17 U.S.C. 101:
    A "derivative work" is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a "derivative work".
In the software world, it is not necessary entirely clear how to apply to the above text to defining derivative works, and hence the exact definition of a derivative work is not entirely clear either. The issue is of some importance, because strong copyleft licenses (such as the GPL) generally place requirements on the licensing of derivative works.

Note: In contrast to copyleft licenses, most proprietary licenses typically do not allow the creation of derivative works at all, except with the explicit permission of the copyright-holder).

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