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Copyright Law

Village People ‘cop’ regains control of copyright share for ‘YMCA’ and other hits

Posted Sep 11, 2013 7:56 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The Village People’s former lead singer—who dressed as a cop during performances—has regained a share of the copyright for “YMCA” and other hit songs he co-wrote as a result of a 1978 law regarding termination rights.

Victor Willis invoked a provision of the law that allows songwriters to regain control to their creative work 35 years after granting the copyright to others, the New York Times reports. A court ruled in favor of Willis, but the decision is being appealed. Litigation also continues over the split of copyright share between Willis and co-writers.

Willis told the New York Times he is speaking about the case to alert other artists about the law. “I’m hoping that other artists will get a good lawyer and get back the works that a lot of us gave away when we were younger, before we knew what was going on,” he said. Willis said he became aware of his termination rights because his wife is a lawyer.

Willis had sought to recover the copyright to 33 songs, including “YMCA” and “In the Navy.” He was not able to reclaim rights to “Macho Man,” however, because it was written before the 1978 law took effect.

The Hollywood Reporter and the ABA Journal covered the law in stories published last year.

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