Village Person Tests Copyright Law
The rights to the 1978 song “Y.M.C.A.” generate a million dollars a year, even after all this time. But that money doesn’t go to the Village People, who performed the original recording, or the songwriters.
Victor Willis, the original lead singer of the group, filed papers this year to regain control in 2013 over his share of “Y.M.C.A.,” whose lyrics he wrote, under a copyright provision that returns ownership of creative works to recording artists and songwriters after 35 years. His claim to “Y.M.C.A.” and 32 other Village People compositions, however, is being contested by two companies that administer publishing rights to the songs.
The companies, Scorpio Music, a French business, and Can’t Stop Productions, one of its American affiliates, do not deny that Mr. Willis, who dressed as a police or naval officer in the group’s live performances, is one of the writers of several of the songs, which have made many millions of dollars. But they have asked a court in Los Angeles to deny his attempt to exercise what are known as “termination rights,” arguing, among other things, that the two companies “employed defendant Willis as a writer for hire, and he therefore has no rights” to any share of ownership of the songs.
The defense said Willis was merely one of several creators of the songs, and in some cases only translated French songs. A lawyer for the plaintiff pointed out that Mr. Willis does not speak French and that France has no Y.M.C.A.s. Link -via Breakfast Links