By Matthew Perpetua
Victor Willis, the original lead singer of the Village People, has filed papers to regain control over his share of the copyright credit for 32 of the band's songs in 2013, including the massive hit "Y.M.C.A." Willis' bid hinges on an obscure revision to copyright law enacted in 1978 that grants artists "termination rights" allowing them to take copyrights back from record labels after 35 years, provided that they apply two years in advance.
Scorpio Music and Can't Stop Productions, the two companies that administer publishing rights to the songs, have pushed back on Willis' bid, arguing to a Los Angeles court that they both employed the singer and songwriter on a work-for-hire basis, and as such, he has no ownership rights to the material.
According to lawyers for the companies, Willis' situation is unlike that of songwriters such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel and Tom Petty, who are also seeking to regain control of their intellectual property, in that Willis was hired to join the Village People, a concept band created by the label. "We hired this guy. He was an employee, we gave them the material and a studio to record in and controlled what was recorded, where, what hours and what they did," Stewart L. Levy, a lawyer representing Scorpio and Can't Stop told the New York Times.
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