Artists who created commissioned works that were not properly documented works for hire may be able to reclaim their copyrights. This is called “reversion.” The current copyright act was in force starting in 1978. To deal with the problem of artists giving up their copyrights when they were in a difficult financial position, the Copyright Act provides that after 35 years artists can get their copyrights back. The only exception is for works for hire, which typically must be documented before works begin. Works that were later assigned by the artist can be reclaimed.
If you assigned your copyright and didn’t have a work for hire agreement, you need to send him/her the proper notification that you will want your rights back when the time is right. There is a multi-year window to send this notification.
More information can be found here: http://www.copyright.gov/docs/203.html
In addition, if you are listed as a joint author in a work, you are entitled to an accounting of profits made from that work. Information on joint author rights and accountings can be found here:
Karish & Bjorgum, PC
16 North Marengo Ave., Suite 307
Pasadena, CA 91101