Gather info and check your status. Whether you handle this on your own or you get a lawyer, you need to start by gathering information. You need to review these websites and plug in your song titles: HFA, Limelight,BMI, and ASCAP. You should find out who is listed as publisher of the song and who is listed as songwriter. You should also search the Copyright Office website to see if the songs have been registered and whether you are listed as co-writer.
- If you're not listed as co-songwriter ... then you're going to need to prove ownership. That will require documentation from the past -- either publishing contracts if you have them or circumstantial evidence (vinyl recordings listing you as a co-writer, credits listing you at other websites, previous payments for the songs, etc.).
- If you are listed as co-songwriter ... then you will have an easier time proving your case and hopefully recovering royalties (and if you are listed as a co-writer at BMI or ASCAP then you should be receiving quarterly payments directly for radio and certain digital performances -- unless your contact information is outdated).
Get a lawyer. Once you've gathered this evidence, we think it's time to contact a lawyer. We know it may cost you money but if the recording artist was well-known and the songs are generating thousands in revenue per year, it could be worth your while to get an attorney involved. If you live near a volunteer lawyers for the arts organization, you may be able to find an ideal attorney. Otherwise, you will need to look for a copyright attorney who might hopefully be willing to take your case on a contingent fee basis.