Can a producer who was paid a 'for hire' fee to produce songs try and copyright them as his own? How? 5 Answers as of June 18, 2015

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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Microtechnology Law & Analysis | Daniel Flamm
Based on what you say (e.g. you filed for a copyright and embedded your work in tangible media) you should have a likelihood of winning a lawsuit or settlement. I'd suggest you engage a copyright attorney since the things you relate involve contract and copyright law.. If you have good reason to believe your work is valuable, you might be able to find a copyright attorney who will handle your case at least partly on a contingency basis (e.g. some combination of fees and a portion of your later receipts).
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/18/2015
Sebby Law Office
Sebby Law Office | Jayne Sebby
If you have your "work for hire" agreement on paper and the producer signed it, you alone own the copyright on each production. If it's not in writing, you own the copyright to the song but he may have a claim to the production of the song. Complete your registration of the composition and attempt to register the recording. You and he may have to register as joint owners of the recording but he has no claim to the composition.
Answer Applies to: Nebraska
Replied: 6/18/2015
Banner & Witcoff, Ltd. | Ernie Linek
It all depends upon the written contract for the work. The following comes from the US Copyright Office website - www.copyright.gov: Copyright Registration of Musical Compositions and Sound Recordings For copyright purposes, there is a difference between MUSICAL COMPOSITIONS and SOUND RECORDINGS. A Musical Composition consists of music, including any accompanying words, and is normally registered as a work of performing arts. The author of a musical composition is generally the composer and the lyricist, if any. A musical composition may be in the form of a notated copy (for example, sheet music) or in the form of a phonorecord (for example, cassette tape, LP, or CD). A Sound Recording results from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds. The author of a sound recording is the performer(s) whose performance is fixed, or the record producer who processes the sounds and fixes them in the final recording, or both. Copyright in a sound recording is not the same as, or a substitute for, copyright in the underlying musical composition. Registration of a Musical Composition and a Sound Recording with a Single Application Although they are separate works, a musical composition and a sound recording may be registered together on a single application if ownership of the copyrights in both is exactly the same. To register a single claim in both works, complete Form SR. Give information about the author(s) of both the musical composition and the sound recording. Go see a lawyer with a copy of your contract with the producer.
Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
Replied: 6/18/2015
Gerald R. Black, Esq.
Gerald R. Black, Esq. | Gerald R. Black
The U.S. Constitution provides that the Copyright to the works created belong to the Author. It is not clear from your fact pattern, whether the Producer wrote the music or is merely the Arranger. The Composer would have paramount rights here. However, the Composer may assign on otherwise dispose of this Copyright. It would appear that in this instance everything will hinge on the Agreement between you and the Producer. Hopefully, you were represented by competent Counsel. You may need to enforce the Agreement in a Court of Law. Good Luck!
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 6/18/2015
Law Office of Kirk Buhler
Law Office of Kirk Buhler | Kirk A Buhler
He can file, but the right may be yours based upon the contract that you both agreed to in advance of creating the work. The copyright office will ask for two hard copy disks of the songs in the future. What you describe can be common with producers, artist or authors. You should consult with a general practice or contract attorney to review the contract and determine your rights.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/18/2015
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