Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Village People Lead Singer Sues for Rights to YMCA and Other Music.

I've always found it disturbingly ironic that every Opposite Wedding I've ever been to has played the disco classic "YMCA" by the Village People. I'd sit there watching a bunch of drunk, overweight straight folks stuffed into their way-too-tight Sunday Best, huffing and puffing as they engaged in their first cardio workout in twenty years to the strains of a blatantly gay song, sung by blatantly gay singers, knowing the whole time that I would probably never be able to get married myself.

Most straight folks made fun of the Village People, with their outrageous costumes and gay sensibility, but they couldn't help but love their music and can now be seen doing that stupid YMCA dance (which we never did back in the day) at wedding receptions, high school reunions and football stadiums across the country. What most have forgotten, however, is that they were essentially, just another boy band constructed by music producers.

The group is in the news again, more three decades later, over who should maintain the rights to the music. The New York Times reports:
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.
"This is going to be an important case because they claim my client was a worker for hire," said Mr. Willis's lead lawyer, Brian D. Caplan of the New York firm Caplan & Ross. "We are quite confident there will not be finding of work for hire, and that the rationale of such a decision will have implications for many other cases."
Read the full story here.

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