Morricone scored the films in the late 1970s and early 1980s pursuant to agreements with Bixio, which had its own contracts with film producers. The composer transferred to Bixio all rights in the works in exchange for three million Italian lira, the right to credits, and the right to a portion of the proceeds from use of the scores.
In 2012, Morricone sent termination notices over six film scores pursuant to the 1976 Copyright Act. In November 2016, he filed a lawsuit seeking a declaration that he indeed was successful in his termination.
The law, however, doesn’t allow “works for hire” to be terminated. Both Morricone and Bixio agreed that the film scores were commissioned works, but disagreed on the import.
Under American law, what matters is whether there’s a written instrument attesting to a “work made for hire,” meaning that the publisher is deemed the author. Some courts further analyze the situation by looking at whether an employer induced the creation of the work and had the right to direct and supervise the manner in which the work was carried out.