Ghostwriter Claims Copyright on Hundreds of Hercules, Xena Music Cues

By • August 1, 2002

LOS ANGELES (Film Music Magazine) — In a move destined to set a precedent for the film and television composing industry, Michigan composer Dan Kolton has claimed the legal copyright and authorship of hundreds of musical cues he says he composed while ghostwriting for the top-rated Hercules and Xena television series.

Mr. Kolton stated he never gave permission for another composer to claim authorship and collect what may be hundreds of thousands of dollars of writers’ royalties paid over the last 7 years by ASCAP and overseas performing rights organizations for worldwide broadcast performances of Kolton’s music in over 100 episodes of the series.

According to Kolton, the music, written during 1995-2000, was composed at the request of composer Joseph Lo Duca, who Kolton says is listed as the author of Kolton’s music on the shows’ music cue sheets which direct who performing rights royalties are to be paid to. Lo Duca, who ASCAP has awarded twice as a top earning composer over these same years, is listed in industry references and on-screen as the music composer for the shows, “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” “Xena: Warrior Princess,” and “Young Hercules.” The shows are currently in syndication worldwide.

“My goal in this is simply to correct the record and receive what I should have received in terms of royalties if I had been correctly listed as the author of the music I wrote in the first place. I bear no ill will towards the producers of the shows, and only want to correct the record in terms of the music I wrote that has been used in the shows,” said Kolton.

Kolton’s lawyer Brian Lee Corber of Los Angeles says the case centers on the fact Kolton never gave permission for another composer to claim authorship and collect writers’ performing rights royalties for music written by Kolton. “Dan Kolton wrote this music,” says Corber, “and can prove he is the author of this music. The fact that someone else has claimed authorship of Dan’s music and has taken royalties that should have been paid to Dan has necessitated us taking legal steps to assert his rights as the true author of this music. The protections that our legal system has in place to protect authors of music and other works of art is the U.S. Copyright law, and that is why we’ve registered the music with the U. S. Copyright Office in Mr. Kolton’s name and are taking steps to ensure that Dan is listed as the true author of the music and receives all the rights and benefits that authors of creative works are entitled to.”

According to Corber, under the U.S. Copyright law, a writer retains full ownership and copyright in the music he writes unless there is a written agreement involving the writer wherein the writer gives up or transfers copyright or works under a written “work for hire” agreement as an employee of the composer. According to Corber, there was no written agreement between Kolton and Lo Duca, and Kolton worked as an independent contractor. Corber emphasized that at no time did Kolton transfer copyright to anyone else or give Lo Duca the right to claim that he had authored Kolton’s music.

When asked about Kolton’s claims, Joseph Lo Duca had no comment, and a spokesperson for Universal Television and Studios USA was not available for comment.

Kolton has filed a claim of authorship with performing rights organization ASCAP and performing rights organizations worldwide, asking that royalties generated from his music be suspended while his authorship is officially established and all appropriate cue sheets are corrected.

Comments

By Todd Stormz on May 15th, 2008 at 10:37 am

I find this interesting as I have entered this media world, what do you with this type of situation. Anyone out there with a good suggestion, thank you.

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