Ennio Morricone wants his copyright in music for three films back

Composer filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that Marricone Music is the sole proprietor of the United States copyright in three film scores composed by Ennio Morricone and that all United States rights to those film scores now being claimed by Bixio Music were terminated. This case arises out of an actual controversy between Morricone Music and Bixio both of which have asserted competing claims to public performance royalties collected by the ASCAP from the public performance of the film scores in the US.

According to suit, the composer in or about 1978 entered into a written agreement with Edizioni Musicali to compose the musical score for the film Cosi Come Sei being produced in Rome by San Francisco Film (the “Cosi Come Agreement”). Edizioni Musicali had entered into a contract with San Francisco Film according to the terms of which Edizioni Musicali had agreed to provide the score by the composer for use in synchronization with the film. The composer was not a party to the agreement between Edizioni Musicali and San Francisco Film. The Cosi Come Sei agreement granted to Edizioni Musicali the worldwide copyright in the film score entitled CoSi Come Sei by the composer and Edizioni Musicali effectuated the grant when it registered the musical score with SIAE on October 31, 1978.

The composer in or about 1979 entered into a written agreement with Edizioni Musicali to compose the musical score for the film Il Giocatollo being produced in Rome for Rafran Cinematagrafica. Edizioni Musicali had entered into a contract with Rafran Cinematografica according to the terms of which Edizioni Musicali had agreed to provide the score by the Composer for use in synchronization with the film. The composer was not a party to the agreement between Edizioni Musicali and Rafran Cinematografica. The Il Giocatollo agreement granted to Edizioni Musicali the worldwide copyright in the film score entitled Il Giocatollo by the composer and Edizioni Musicali effectuated the grant when it registered the musical score with SIAE on June 30, 1979.

The composer in or about 1980 entered into a written agreement with Edizioni Musicali to compose the musical score for the film Un Sacco Bello being produced in Rome for Rafran Cinematografica. Edizioni Musicali had entered into a contract with Rafran Cinematografica according to the terms of which Edizioni Musicali had agreed to provide the score by the composer for use in synchronisation with the film. The composer was not a party to the agreement between Edizioni Musicali and Rafran Cinematografica. The Un Sacco Bello agreement granted to Edizioni Musicali the worldwide copyright in the film score entitled Un Sacco Bello by the composer and Edizioni Musicali effectuated the grant when it registered the musical score with SIAE June 24, 1980.

Then Edizioni Musicali subsequently assigned the United States copyrights to all three film scores to Bixio, and Bixio then registered a claim with ASCAP to all royalties collected from the public performance of those film scores in the United States. The composer by relevant notices terminated the rights of Bixio in the United States for all three film scores and assigned to Morricone Music. Morricone Mjsic upon receipt of the assignments from the composer attempted to register its claim to all royalties collected from the public performance of the three film scores in the US with ASCAP but Bixio refused to relinquish the Bixio claim based upon its allegation that the film scores were created as works made for hire and not subject to the termination under 17 U.S.C.203.

Marricone Music disputes the Bixio Claim, denies that the film scores were created as work made for hire because the composer during his creation of the film scores was at all times acting as an independent contractor who was not in the employ of Edizioni Musicali, and the composer did not agree in writing that any of the film scores would constitute a work made for hire and that the termination were, therefore, valid under 17 U.S.C.203. Morricone Music requests to enter a judgment that it is the sole proprietor of the United States copyright in the film scores.