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In 1983 i created an album cover art illustration with the copyright symbols and signature on it, can i legally claim my right

Atlanta, GA |

1n 1983 i was commissioned to do a album cover for a late REGGAE SUPER STAR. Today many companies are using this art work to make profits without my authority . how can i get compensation . The copyright symbol and my signature is clearly visible however it is been used by all these companies with compensation. .

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Attorney answers 5



You should consult an attorney before proceeding. It is possible that your rights are no longer enforceable due to the concept of laches.

Here is a URL explaining the concept well from a recent decision - but every case is different and your facts could still result in protection.


Because you say you were commissioned to do the album cover, your artwork might be considered a "work for hire". If so, the person or company that hired you to do the cover would own all copyrights to the work and can license others to use it. A copyright attorney armed with more details of the transaction can tell you what your probable rights to the work are.


At this point any of us will have more questions than answers. I suggest you use Avvo to locate several lawyers you can discuss this with in more detail.

As noted, if there were any agreements made they would have to be reviewed. The state of copyright law at the time will need to be understood. Further, back in the early 80s a lot of Reggae was produced outside the US. Is the US the correct jurisdiction? Has the work even been registered with the US Copyright Office?

Lastly, in the US there is a 3 year statute of limitation on copyright infringement. The key question will be when was the date of the last infringement? That is, is the work still being used today so that we could claim that the infringement has been ongoing all these years and is thus still actionable?

You should discuss this in more detail with a lawyer in private. Most of us here, including myself, offer a free phone consult.

Best regards,
Natoli-Lapin, LLC
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As my colleagues point out, there may be many factors that would affect your right to claims in this work, including laches and/or "work for hire" doctrine. You will need to consult with an attorney who can confidentially get all of the details and analyze your particular situation and help you determine what, if any, claims you may have and if they are worth pursuing.


This intends entirely upon the agreement that you entered into when you created the album cover. If by "commissioned" you mean that you were paid a fee to produce the cover, chances are the Court would hold that the album cover was a "work for hire". This means that you assigned all right to profit from the drawing to the persons who commissioned it. In this regard, as my colleagues have mentioned, you have a major problem here with the doctrine of laches. Even if you maintain ownership in the copyright, your failure to have asserted claims against infringers for many years would probably lead a court to conclude that it would unfair for you to begin asserting such claims now. The law has an "if you snooze, you lose" concept which is based on the concept that it would be unfair after a long time passes to change the rules of the game---in this case, that you were not entitled to additional payment for use of your album cover.

Further, the statute of limitations for most copyright claims is three years---this would drastically limit the value of your claim. Also, you would have to prove that companies are "using this art work to make profits". Often art work is only one of many factors that makes profits; for example, art work on a record album is much less important to profits than the music and the artists (at least most of the time). Even if you have valid claims, you should not expect an economic windfall here.