The Village People's Victor Willis Reclaimed His Rights On The Band's Songs
Victor Willis, the guy who used to dress up as a policeman in the disco act, The Village People, won big time this week, thanks to an update on federal copyright law by the congress. According to the 1978 amendments to the US Copyright Act., songwriters have the right to terminate their copyrights deals with labels and publishers, 35 years after the contracts are inked. Because of this law, which takes effect next year, Victor Willis reclaimed partial ownership of dozens of the Village People’s songs, such as YMCA and Macho Man.
Scorpio Music and Can’t Stop Productions, which were the administrators of the Village People’s publishing rights, tried to stop Willis by going to court, mostly arguing that the songs were written by several people and that Willis couldn’t regain control over them as he needed all the co-authors on board. But California Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz got the last word, rejected the publishers’ claims and allowed Willis to terminate the publishing deal.
Willis's publicist, Linda Smythe declared to the Hollywood Reporter: ‘To say this decision will send shock waves through the record industry … is an understatement. This case marks a major precedent for the music industry, because it will allow songwriters to claim back the rights to their old songs.’
Willis will also get a greater share of royalties than before, as he was merely getting 20% for any song with the old deal, and could now demand a one-third for ‘YMCA’ which has 3 authors. Since Willis was credited as a writer on 33 of the Village People’s songs, it is a big victory for him.
2013 will be the first year in which musicians can effectuate a termination notice, and this could open ‘a tremendous can of worms’ for the music industry’ as said Mark Volman. Volman, who is a coordinator of the Entertainment Industry Studies program and an assistant professor at Belmont University in Tennessee, but also a founding member of the 1960s group the Turtles, is aware that ‘It would be a tremendous win (for songwriters) to get something like that in place’.
Although Willis is not gay, The Village People was targeting a gay audience, and songs like ‘YMCA’ were the gay anthems of the late 70s. Coincidentally, Wednesday was also some sort of historic day for gay people as President Obama declared to ABC news he was endorsing same-sex marriage, in a move that many papers have qualified of fearless and courageous:
‘I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married’.
I am aware that everything is calculated in politics but still, I was not expected it. Accepting gay marriage is long overdue, as refusing to a significant part of the population the right to get married is just going against social evolution, this would eventually happen anyway, despite all the Santorum-types in the world!
All the gays ready to get married in the near future, should play any Village People’s hits to celebrate!