Well, ideas aren't owned. Only the expression of ideas can be copyrighted and that is what is owned. Warner Brothers once tried to sue anyone with a possession like plotted movie and they lost because they cannot own or protect an idea, only the specific expression of an idea.
Also there is the doctrine of work for hire. In that cash certain things the copyright is owned by the corporation and it's neither odd or a travesty or some sort. It's designed for say a tech manual done written by an employee for Boeing.
Truthfully the type of thing you're looking for is moral rights. This country with the limited (and I mean limited exception of VARA and the Monty Python case) has never recognized moral rights. Copyright in this country is an economic right and the belief (which I agree with) is the artistic rights should be protected via contract, not as a separate right. A example is how Miyazki would not allow any of his movies to be cut, without his permission when he signed the Disney deal. I think that is how it should work.
I believe underlying musical rights (or story rights as a derivative work) are the reason It's A Wonderful Life is no longer considered in the public domain.
Bill, can you tell me the name of the company claiming copyright? I'm quite interested in this and would like to do some sniffing around on it.
Copyright is fairly settled in a lot of areas, you just have to keep in mind people often make claims that just don't make any sense with the law.
I actually have some really good news to post. I just landed an internship at a New York publishing and test prep company to work in handling copyright and trademark law (domestic and international). It's also right near 57th St and has a view of Central Park. It's pretty much exactly the type of stuff I have always wanted to do. The person doing the interview could tell I had the kid in the candy store look on my face when she was talking about job responsibilities. I am going to make sure in my cubicle (or office) that next to my pictures of my family is going to be a picture of the copyright doctor. It's going to be my good luck charm.