The "originality" requirement expresses the prerequisite that a copyrighted work must be the original production of its creator. The threshold for originality is very low and means only that it was not copied from another. Wholly new creations thus easily meet this requirement, even if they are similar—even very similar—to other preexisting creations. Where the originality requirement becomes most important is where a creation combines some copied material with some material newly developed by its creator.

Such a "derivative work" is entitled to copyright protection as its own creation, even as some of the underlying components of the derivative work are themselves subject to copyright. With such derivative works, the assignment of rights may sometimes have similarities with the apportionment of patent rights where different parties have patents with claims of different scope. For example, consider a derivative work created by Party B using materials created by Party A and protected by copyright. To create the derivative work, Party B must have permission of Party A to reproduce the underlying portions owned by Party A; but Party B owns the new material added in creating the derivative work and the derivative work as a whole (Figure I.15). Someone wishing to reproduce the derivative work would certainly need the permission of Party B, and if no provision had been secured by Party B to grant permission to reproduce all the underlying pieces, permission of Party A would also be needed.

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