In a court ruling with significant implications for the music industry, a California judge has dismissed a suit by two song publishing companies aimed at preventing Victor Willis, former lead singer of the 1970s disco group the Village People, from exercising his right to reclaim ownership of “YMCA” and other hit songs he wrote.
Early last year, Mr. Willis invoked a provision of copyright law called“termination rights,” which gives recording artists and songwriters the ability to reacquire and administer their work themselves after 35 years have elapsed. The song publishers, Scorpio Music and Can’t Stop Productions, countered by arguing that Mr. Willis had no legal standing to take that or any other action because he had “no right, title or interest in the copyright” to the songs.
On Monday, Chief Judge Barry T. Moskowitz of Federal District Court in Los Angeles rejected the song publishers’ claim that Mr. Willis was not eligible to reclaim his share of ownership of “YMCA,” whose lyrics he wrote, and 32 other songs recorded by the Village People. The companies had initially argued that Mr. Willis had merely created “works for hire” while, in essence, an employee of the company that managed the group. They also claimed he could not reclaim his share of the song because a majority of the other copyright holders had not agreed, the issue that the judge’s ruling addressed. [Read More]