Can a producer who was paid a 'for hire' fee to produce songs try and copyright them as his own? 3 Answers as of January 24, 2011

I paid a producer a large fee to produce my songs on a 'work for hire' basis. He demanded the fee for two reasons; one, to produce the songs in a professional studio; and two, he promised to submit them for placement on TV to his 'contacts.' But upon completion of the recordings he refused to submit them until I gave him 25% of all my publishing and 10% of all my future earning. I happily declined any further involvement with him. It appears that now he has tried to copyright some of the songs so he can place them as his own. Can he do that? I have the songs time stamped in my computer in word docs and demo versions in iTunes. In addition, I filled out the forms online with the US Copyright Office and paid $35 but forgot to send in the hard copy disc of the songs. I have the masters.

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Fish & Associates, PC
Fish & Associates, PC | Robert D. Fish
He can try, and unless the copyright office is told of the facts, he may well be granted a copyright registration. But it would be improper. "For hire" works are owned by the employer.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/24/2011
Mark S. Hubert PC
Mark S. Hubert PC | Mark Hubert
Please contact the Copyright office and correct this oversight. The send a cease and desist to him. If you registered the works within 90 days of publication you can sue them for statutory damages and attorney fees.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 1/24/2011
Michael M. Ahmadshahi
Michael M. Ahmadshahi | Michael M. Ahmadshahi, Ph.D., Esq.
A work for hire agreement, if properly drafted, should have assigned the copyrights to all the existing material that were created by you at the time of signing the agreement but also those that were created by you and those created as a result of the producer's work. Therefore, it depends on the work for hire agreement and as such you should have an attorney review it.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/20/2011
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