Ennio Morricone Reclaims Copyrights to Film Scores After Long-Standing Legal Battle

A U.S. appeals court has reversed a previous decision to block the composer from his works
Ennio Morricone Reclaims Copyrights to Film Scores After Long-Standing Legal Battle
Ennio Morricone has at long last won his lawsuit against Bixio Music Group, with a U.S. court ruling in the composer's favour and effectively returning him the rights to several of his film scores.

As previously reported, Morricone filed a lawsuit against Bixio Music Group in 2016 in attempts to regain the copyrights to six of his film scores, including 1978's Cosi Come Sei (Stay As You Are), 1979's Il Giocattolo (A Dangerous Toy) and 1980's Un Sacco Bello (Fun Is Beautiful).

Morricone had argued his contract with Bixio expired in 2012 under the 1976 Copyright Act, which allows authors to reclaim rights 35 years after publication. Morricone initially lost his case in October 2017 when a New York federal judge ruled the scores were the Italian equivalent of works for hire, precluding the composer's termination rights.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit reversed that 2017 decision on Wednesday (August 21), ruling the scores in question were not works for hire under both U.S. and Italian law.

"The only exception to that right is if the work qualifies as a 'work made for hire' under 17 U.S.C. § 101, and the commissioner of the work is statutorily deemed the author from the work's conception: there is no other author, and there never was one," wrote Circuit Judge Dennis Jacobs. "Italian law does not recognize a comparable allocation of authorship ab initio by statute, even if a contract between the parties grants all economic rights of exploitation to the commissioner."

According to Morricone's initial lawsuit, he made written agreements from 1978 to 1980 with Edizioni Musicali to compose the scores mentioned in the suit. Edizioni Musicali then signed over the U.S. copyrights to Bixio Music Group.

The lawsuit explained: "Morricone Music upon receipt of the assignments from the Composer attempted to register its claims to all royalties collected from the public performance of the film scores Cosi Come Se, Il Giocattolo and Un Sacco Bello in the United States 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. 2013."

It added: "Morricone Music disputes the Bixio Claim, denies that the film scores were created as works 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."

As previously reported, Morricone is set to be honoured with the upcoming art book Morricone, which will arrive on October 1 via Lazy Dog Press.