‘Y.M.C.A.’ Up for Copyright Termination, Can Publishers Stop It?

This is one of the most interesting and brewing legal drama across the music industry right now, that is the “termination” issue. Read on . . .

“The sound of dissonance over a provision of U.S. copyright law which allows recording artists and songwriters to take back ownership over creative works is growing louder. On Wednesday, attorneys for Victor Willis, the original lead singer of the Village People, delivered arguments to a California federal judge why a copyright grant to songs such as “Y.M.C.A.” should be terminated over the objections of the two companies that administer publishing rights.

For more than three decades, ever since Congress amended the copyright code to allow artists to wrest back control on works 35 years after creation, artists have been waiting patently to do so. The “termination” issue has loomed as a ticking time bomb for record labels and music publishers, and Willis’ move earlier this year to effectuate his termination made headlines and was much discussed by folks in the music industry.

As the clock winds down for other artists to send out termination notices on works created in the late-1970s and early-1980s or forfeit their right to do so in the foreseeable future, some musicians are chomping at the bit. For example, Jim Peterik, co-writer of the iconic 1982 rock song, “Eye of the Tiger,” first made famous in Rocky III, is ready to send his own termination notice. Helping him is a firm called Copyright Recapture, which reportedly has signed up 125 songwriters as clients.

With potentially hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, publishers are not going to give up rights without a fight.

In July, after Willis delivered the bad news to Scorpio Music and Can’t Stop Productions (CSP), the two companies raised the first significant legal challenge in the music industry on this termination issue by seeking a declaration in California federal court. They argued that Willis’ copyright pullback should be deemed improper because the songs were created by several authors — not just Willis — as works-made-for-hire, and that Willis was barred from contesting his status as a “writer for hire” by not objecting sooner. . .”

THR, Esq. has the full story.