Friday the 13th, This Is Spinal Tap and now, film scores created by the legendary Italian film composer Ennio Morricone. It may be time to realize that an event that many lawyers foretold — authors terminating copyright grants — is at hand in the film industry.
On Monday, Morricone’s company filed suit in New York federal court with the aim of recapturing the copyrights to three of his film scores. According to a complaint against Bixio Music Group, Morricone has sent termination notices on film scores for Cosi Come Sei (Stay As You Are), Il Giocattolo (A Dangerous Toy) and Un Sacco Bello (Fun Is Beautiful).
The 1976 Copyright Act allows authors or their heirs to cancel a grant 35 years after initial publication. Those who do the math will figure out why works created in the late 1970s and early 1980s are suddenly subject to recapture by their creators. In the past couple months, lawsuits involving termination have been filed with regard to Friday the 13th and This Is Spinal Tap, making the topic quite hot.
The complaint (read here in full) states Morricone made written agreements from 1978 to 1980 with Edizioni Musicali to compose the scores for these three films. Subsequently, Edizioni Musicali assigned the United States copyrights to Bixio, which registered a claim with ASCAP to collect royalties from the public performance of the films.