The Village People Lead Charge to Reclaim Songs

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The Village People Lead Charge to Reclaim Songs

This year, a copyright provision from 1976 made it possible for artists to obtain rights to songs that they created. Under the provision, artists including Bruce Springsteen will have access to master recordings of classic albums, such as Darkness on the Edge of Town. But leading the charge in these claims is… a Village Person?

As the New York Times reported, Victor Willis, the Village People’s first lead singer, has filed a request to resume control over 33 of the group’s songs—including “Y.M.C.A.” And his case could set the tone for artists everywhere attempting to reacquire rights to their music. The publishing companies argue that artists are acting as “for hire” employees, which would take away their rights to the music.

“This is going to be an important case because they claim my client was a worker for hire,” said Willis’ lawyer, Brian D. Caplan. “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.”

Willis’ spokeswoman, Linda Smythe, said the singer earns up to $40,000 a year in royalties, which would “triple or quadruple” if he acquired the songs’ rights.