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May 9, 2012
Village Person Terminates RIAA Rights
Way back in August of last year, I noticed that there was a storm brewing over so-called "termination rights" in music recordings
. That storm appears to have had a first crash, with former Village People member Victor Willis reclaiming his rights in some of their hit songs
To review quickly: a feature of the Copyright Act that went into force in 1978 gave record companies 35 years' worth of profits from albums, after which the artists would be allowed to reclaim their rights in the music. Several artists have done so, and the Cartel is fighting them. According to Larry Rohter's NY Times piece linked above, Willis's claim was contested by Scorpio Music and Can’t Stop Productions, who had sued to stop him exercising his termination rights.
As I discussed in the August entry, Scorpio and Can't Stop initially contended that Willis wrote works for hire, meaning that he would have given up all rights. Chief Judge Barry T. Moskowitz of LA's Federal District Court, appeared set to reject that claim so it was withdrawn. Now Willis has back "his share" of ownership in 33 Village People songs.
That "his share" phrase leaves a lot of wiggle room still because the judge has to determine what Willis's share is. There's going to be a lot of unpleasant tangles yet to sort on this one, but it remains significant as the first case to test termination rights and the work-for-hire theory.
(h/t to +Rowan McVey and +Network XXIII News for the original pointer)
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