Law360 quoted Manatt’s Eric Custer, a partner in the firm’s Entertainment Practice, on the wave of lawsuits that are likely to arise from a 1976 change in the U.S. Copyright Act, which gives artists the ability to reclaim the rights to their works starting in 2013.
As reported by Law360, a U.S. District Court judge recently upheld the 1970s provision when he ruled in favor of Victor Willis, the original lead singer of The Village People, who will recover the rights to a total of 33 songs currently held by music publishers Can’t Stop Productions Inc. and Scorpio Music SA.
According to Custer, the real copyright termination fight is yet to come, when songwriters take on recording studios over their rights instead of music publishers like Can’t Stop and Scorpio.
Custer told Law360 that the publishing companies’ initial assertion that Willis wrote the songs as works-for-hire could have had broader implications on how similar cases would play out in the future. That argument, however, was dropped by the publishers once Willis presented evidence that showed the companies had not considered the songs works-for-hire in their original registrations of the copyrights more than three decades ago.
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