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Who owns the copyright for variety show I created as a volunteer

Discussion in 'Copyright, Trademark, Patent Law' started by hoadirectormac, Sep 28, 2009.

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  1. hoadirectormac

    hoadirectormac Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Question: DO I OWN THE COPYRIGHT?

    FACTS:

    1. For 15 years I have produced a variety show that I created, wrote narration, did choreography, and created instructions for the 50 elementary schools that perform in the program.

    2. I created instructional DVD's and CD's. I wrote instructions on all aspects of teaching, organizing and the overall production.

    3. Royalties for songs on the practice CD's are paid by participating students.
    I choose the songs that are part of the program.

    4. I have done this as a volunteer for 15 years. The production costs for this show are paid for by a non profit foundation. It is one of a number of patriotic events sponsored annually by this foundation. They pay for the facility rent and other related production costs.

    5. They have never paid me anything for any part of what I do.

    6. They think they own the copyright to this show.
    I think I own the copyright. I created it, direct, choreograph, and do everything that has to do with preparing and presenting the program from technical details to recruiting and training participating schools. My intent has always been to maintain the copyright. I have never agreed to give up the intellectual property rights.
     
  2. jharris352

    jharris352 New Member

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    If you don't have a contract with them that gives them your copyright I agree that you have the copyright. They have only used it so far with your permission.
     
  3. SandraMSovin

    SandraMSovin New Member

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    Copyright ownership generally remains with the creator

    The general rule is that copyright ownership remains with the creator, from the moment the work is "fixed in a tangible medium". To transfer rights, you would either have had to have executed an assignment for part or all of the copyright, been an employee with your employer owning rights, or, working as a work-for-hire, in which case there would need to be a writing to confirm in order for the rights to transfer away from you.

    That being said, you note that royalties have been being paid for 15 years, but that you haven't been paid anything, so presumably those have been received by the foundation? Depending upon fact specifics, the fact that you have allowed their free use thusfar may be relevant if some challenge of rights ensues.

    I would be curious as to the reason that you are inquiring after this period of time, which may be relevant. Do you want to do something else with the work? Are you looking for an accounting of fees collected? That is, if recognition of your creativity is the only goal, your answer could be as simple as registering the copyright and then formally granting a license to the foundation. Your best approach may thus best be determined by considering what has led you to ask this question at this time.
     
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  4. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    Who is "they?" Were you an employee of any "them?" If you were not, chances are better that you own the intellectual property rights of what it is you may have created. In short, most of the time the IP created by an employee is owned by the employer but not necessarily the case if the worker was an independent contractor who was not at the control and direction of the contracting/employing party. The comments given above are all very good and, to be perfectly frank, the entire convoluted story will have to be told to your advisor (preferably an attorney) in order to determine who may own what.
     

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