Copyright Law

Village People Singer Seeks ‘YMCA’ Rights Under Obscure Copyright Termination Provision

Corrected: The Village People had one word of advice for a young man in need of some dough and somewhere to go: Y.M.C.A.

Now the man who wrote the song is a little older and seeking to cash in through a little-known copyright provision that allows musicians and songwriters to regain control of their work after 35 years, the New York Times reports.

Victor Willis, the Village People’s original lead singer, has filed papers to regain control of the rights to “Y.M.C.A.” and 32 other songs, the story says. The termination-rights provision applies to work registered with the U.S. Copyright Office after Jan. 1, 1978, too late for the group’s other big hit, “Macho Man.”

The 35-year mark is approaching for many hit albums, the New York Times reported in a prior story. Among the musicians who have filed termination notices seeking to reclaim their rights are Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Bryan Adams, Loretta Lynn, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Waits and Charlie Daniels.

A big issue in the fight over termination rights is whether the musicians were workers for hire. New York lawyer Stewart Levy, who represents two companies that own the rights to “Y.M.C.A.,” is making the claim in Willis’ case. “The Village People were a concept group, created by my clients, who picked the people and the costumes,” he told the Times. “It was probably no different than the Monkees when they started. We hired this guy.”

Corrected at 8:42 a.m. to list the song as “Y.M.C.A.”


Corrected at 8:42 a.m. to list the song as “Y.M.C.A.”

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