Copyright Law – Village People songwriter terminates copyright deal for ‘Y.M.C.A.’ and other hits

The cop from the Village People, Victor Willis, successfully terminated rights to the song, “Y.M.C.A.,” by the companies that administered publishing rights to this crowd-pleasing song, among others.

Willis, a co-composer of the Village People’s songs, sought to terminate the grant of his share of the copyright in the songs to publishers, Scorpio Music and Can’t Stop Productions.  The publishers responded by filing a declaratory relief lawsuit seeking a court ruling on Wills’ rights.  The court ruled that Willis could terminate his publishing deal as the 1978 amendments to the US Copyright Act gave songwriters the right to unilaterally terminate their copyright deals after 35 years.  The court also ruled that Willis, who had at least one co-composer, could terminate his publishing deal whether or not the other composers seek to terminate their share of the copyright.

Although it’s not clear how much revenue the Village People songs are still generating, Willis’ share will (starting in 2013) increase from 12-20% to at least 33%.

Needless to say, this will start opening the doors for many prominent songwriters to follow in Willis’ footsteps (assuming this does not get reversed in an appeal).

For more on this case, see this Bloomberg article and this Hollywood Reporter article.

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