Copyright Terminations: Larry Iser weighs in on potential landmark ‘Village People’ case

Bloomberg reporters Edvard Pettersson and Ellen Rosen recently asked Larry and others about what may become precedent-setting litigation pitting the former lead singer of the Village People, Victor Willis, against the 1970s disco group’s music publisher.

At issue in the contentious suit pending in the federal court in San Diego:  The Copyright Act of 1976 included provisions that permit authors and their heirs to terminate copyright grants.  If an artist or author sold a copyright before 1978 (Section 304), they or their heirs can take it back 56 years later.  If the artist or author sold the copyright during or after 1978 (Section 203), they can terminate that grant after 35 years.  Assuming all the proper paperwork gets done in time, record labels could lose sound recording copyrights they bought in 1978 starting in 2013, 1979 in 2014, and so on.  For 1953-and-earlier music, grants can already be terminated.

Record companies and music publishers, faced with the potential loss of valuable catalogs, have resisted.  Read about this interesting case:  Ex-Village People Singer Willis Fights to Reclaim Copyrights.