Village People Singer Wants To Ban The Group From Singing YMCA After Claiming He's Regained The Copyright

from the um... dept

We've written many times about the issue of termination rights in copyright. Under the Copyright Act that went into effect in 1978, artists have a "termination right" to basically take back their copyright from whomever they assigned it to, 35 years after the works were created. Artists cannot contract that right away. It's inalienable. Of course, it's 2013, and as you may have noticed, that's 35 years after 1978. There are a variety of legal fights going on, as copyright holders (generally large gatekeeper companies) are fighting to stop the termination rights. One of the first key cases on this involved The Village People's Victor Willis, who initially scored an initial victory last year. Of course, the legal fight went on. The NY Times, however, is reporting that Willis himself is now claiming victory, but the details are lacking, and the lawyer for the record labels denies Willis' claim, noting that there's still an appeal to be heard.

That said, what struck me as more interesting -- but no less troubling -- is the gleeful manner in which it appears Willis is preparing to use his new copyright powers (if he actually gets them) to make the current version of The Village People stop performing the band's classic songs:
In a telephone interview from his home in Southern California, Mr. Willis said he has not yet decided how best to exploit the song catalog. “I’ve had lots of offers, from record and publishing companies, a lot of stuff, but I haven’t made up my mind how it’s going to be handled.”

He added, however, that he is thinking of prohibiting the Village People — the band still exists and is touring this month and next, though with largely different members — from singing any of his songs, at least in the United States.
Willis seems positively gleeful about his believed power to stop the song from being played:
“I learned over the years that there are some awesome powers associated with copyright ownership,” Mr. Willis said. “You can stop somebody from performing your music if you want to, and I might object to some usages.”
The NY Times claims that this right could allow Willis to prevent venues from even playing recordings of classic songs like YMCA. This seems somewhat unlikely. While it's true that a copyright holder can prevent a public performance (though not a recording of a cover), most songs are licensed for public performance via one of the major performance rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. In theory, there could be a situation in which Willis would pull the songs from those guys, but that would likely lead to a major loss of income. But if it's licensed to those guys, then, generally speaking venues pay a blanket license and can play any and all songs in that venue. I can't see how Willis would possibly stop that without pulling his songs out of the PROs and that just seems silly.

Still, even assuming there is a way to do this, why would he? It just seems petty and stupid and vindictive, with little upside, other than annoying a lot of people. But, all too often, it seems like that's what copyright is for.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    artp (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:50am

    You act like this is a bad thing!

    Life without YMCA and other Village People songs? Sign me up!

    Purely a subjective comment, I assure you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:51am

    Be careful what you wish for

    If nobody performs his music any more then he's just that much closer to being forgotten and culturally irrelevant.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:52am

    Re: You act like this is a bad thing!

    Avoid weddings and ballgames and you'll be fine.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:53am

    Disco still sucks

    The less we here the better. Please return it to the 70s.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:54am

    Re: Disco still sucks

    Ugh.. *hear*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:04pm

    Petty, stupid, vindictive: check.

    Way to play right into the copyright industry's hand, too.

    If he actually gets the rights, and stops it from being performed, you know that the copyright groups will spin this to get termination rights revoked. Even though the informed will understand that this is an issue with copyright in general, all the focus will be on the termination rights.

    Maybe I'm just paranoid, but the labels couldn't ask for an artist to do something more perfect for them on this issue. Is it a sham? Wheels within wheels, and all that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:06pm

    Don't worry, the Village People have a copyright-friendly backup plan if the rights to YMCA are revoked. They will simply change the words slightly and make the song about the DMCA.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:11pm

    Sounds like the lyrics might be in need of a slight change

    'D-M-C-A'

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    cpt kangarooski, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:19pm

    Re:

    If he actually gets the rights, and stops it from being performed, you know that the copyright groups will spin this to get termination rights revoked. Even though the informed will understand that this is an issue with copyright in general, all the focus will be on the termination rights.

    I'm okay with that. Termination is a dumb idea and very paternalistic. If authors make bad deals, well, they were adults, they were not forced into it, they could've negotiated or said no or made a deal with someone else or self published. Why should they get to go back and undo contracts decades later?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:32pm

    Mike should go with majority opinion here.

    Stopping (lousy compared to original that I wasn't any too keen on) performances of this is bad HOW?

    "initially scored an initial victory"
    "initially victoried an initial victory "
    Fixed that for ya.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:32pm

    D! M! C! A!

    It's fun to violate the D M C A!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Dave (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:48pm

    Hang on a minute...

    Just because the guy who wrote YMCA decides that he doesn't want whoever the Village People are now to perform the song anymore, the whole concept of a song's copyright reverting back to the creator is suddenly a "dumb idea"?

    I don't buy that. Think about all the songs that the major labels currently "own" that they're practically hoarding in a vault somewhere and not promoting at all. Musicians have far more avenues for promoting their compositions in 2013 than they did in 1978. Why shouldn't those musicians take those songs back and do something new with them? Why should the labels be allowed to keep those songs locked up in perpetuity?

    One guy who doesn't get the concept does not invalidate the concept. Give the art back to the artists.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    David Cortright (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:49pm

    When does a live performance become a recording being played back?

    What if the group records their performance to disk, and then plays it back through speakers on the stage 1/100th of a second later? Or maybe they just record a copy earlier and lip sync/air guitar to it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 1:01pm

    PROs

    Actually, a lot of artists have been talking about pulling music from the PROs lately to gain control and strangle Pandora from playing their music. This would really be no different in that sense. The PROs are quickly becoming a thing of the past as more major music publishers pull their music and little guys follow.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    PlagueSD (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 1:02pm

    whachu talkin' bout, Willis?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Haggie, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 1:11pm

    Young man, if you hear a great sound
    I said, young man, there is a need to feel down
    You can't use it, because of the DMCA
    You can't use it, unless you agree to pay...

    D-M-C-A

    It's not fun to sample because of the D-M-C-A

    I hope someone has explained Fair Use and parody to Willis...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 1:14pm

    Re: Sounds like the lyrics might be in need of a slight change

    I just threw my back out trying make the "D" shape.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Chris Brand, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 1:26pm

    termination rights

    are really just a patch to work around the problem of copyrights lasting way too long. If they were still 28 years max, no need for termination rights.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 1:32pm

    Re: PROs

    Well, if they want to turn themselves into artists that new listeners have never heard about, while opening the field up even more to independent artists, hey, they are welcome to it. That would be like forbidding radio from playing your music in the 70's-80's and wondering why sales were so lousy and no-one had ever heard of you, a stupid, short-sighted move all around.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    gorehound (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 1:35pm

    Disco Sucks............Punks Not Dead !
    YMCA = Yet (another) Moron (who signed with the) Copyright Assholes !

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    cpt kangarooski, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 2:16pm

    Re: Hang on a minute...

    Just because the guy who wrote YMCA decides that he doesn't want whoever the Village People are now to perform the song anymore, the whole concept of a song's copyright reverting back to the creator is suddenly a "dumb idea"?

    No, I already thought that it was a dumb idea.

    I don't buy that. Think about all the songs that the major labels currently "own" that they're practically hoarding in a vault somewhere and not promoting at all. Musicians have far more avenues for promoting their compositions in 2013 than they did in 1978. Why shouldn't those musicians take those songs back and do something new with them? Why should the labels be allowed to keep those songs locked up in perpetuity?

    In that case, why not place the songs in the public domain? Then, everyone, including the musicians, can do something new with them. Termination doesn't release works from being locked up;, as we see here, it only changes who holds the keys.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 2:24pm

    Re: termination rights

    are really just a patch to work around the problem of copyrights lasting way too long. If they were still 28 years max, no need for termination rights

    What he said.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Xploding_Cobra (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 2:26pm

    Re: Mike should go with majority opinion here.

    Here's some food for thought for you because God knows you could use some brain food...

    You seem to either hate or have the internets biggest crush on Masnick.

    I'd be willing to venture that less than 1% of the people who read and post here can stand you.

    You seem to have only the vaguest idea of what copyright trolls are despite the fact that you post in every. single. thread. about them.

    Whay are you here again? If it's so we all can get a good laugh at the microcephalic idiot then kudos. Well done. If you really ARE that stupid, take a moment and think about the fact that you are so near-universally reviled that you get reported no matter WHAT you post and maybe stay away from this place for a week or two.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Brenda, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 2:44pm

    YMCA

    He didn't say he was going to stop everybody from performing his songs. He simply said he'd stop one group (the Village People)from performing his songs. And he probably has good reason.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 3:01pm

    Ahh yes the legal fiction known as copyright. I can definitely see that this will further the arts and sciences and is not broken in any way.

    As you were...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 5:29pm

    Re: Disco still sucks

    And send heavy metal back to hell.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 5:32pm

    Re:

    ApologetiX does an excellent parody ("YHWH").

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 5:44pm

    Re: Re: Disco still sucks

    Umm... No!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    80sRelic (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 7:15pm

    Re: D! M! C! A!

    Young man, go and download that song
    Young man, who gives a shit if its wrong
    You can play it, on almost everything
    Because there's no D-R-M in your way!
    . . . . .!
    It's fun to violate the D-M-C-A!
    It's fun to violate the D-M-C-A!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    artp (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 8:26pm

    Re: Re: You act like this is a bad thing!

    Weddings?

    Apparently, I really need to get out more. Or do I? The mind boggles!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Pseudonym, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:11pm

    Re: D! M! C! A!

    You can stop the music, Vic Wills can stop the music...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Phil, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:39pm

    FLASHLIGHT2013

    The question for September from www.flashlight2013.com :
    “How many more sealed court cases do we have to endure, before WE THE PEOPLE, become part of this cover-up too!?”

    This quote came to us as a result of our reporting on the Federal Court cases that have been placed “under seal” (hidden from the public) and outline some of the Armen Boladian lawsuits related to the extensive list of copyrights he has “mis-appropriated” including:

    * There are over 300 Federal Court cases in Nashville that have been hidden from public view, for what reason we are not sure… (over 300 court cases and their transcripts, not just the exhibits or documents!)

    * The Special Masters agreement between Armen Boladian’s company and others, which has been called “the collusion agreement” by some of the artists that have been victimized by it.

    * The Jane Peterer deposition that contains Copyright Office fillings that show the “potential fraudulent activities” of Armen Boladian, his company and their business partners including Universal Music Group and B.M.I.

    We have Ms. Peterer’s non-sealed deposition on our website here: http://flashlight2013.com/depo.html and we continue to call on the NY TIMES and ABC NEWS to grow some balls and finally report on the facts they have uncovered,….which are summarized here: http://flashlight2013.com/motiontounseal.html?_ga=1.146804863.919432567.1377051678

    ABC Detroit showcased a 4 minute interview on this exact issue in February 2013 and then were immediately “forced to remove it from all websites worldwide”.

    Why did this happen? Why did the reporter have to “retire” immediately after the report? Why is the NY Times not reporting the facts they have uncovered? Why is no other media outlet picking up this story?

    We believe it is part of the continuing “cover-up” and we now call on President Obama and the “Gang of Four” to investigate and act on our complaints.

    #‎WARPATH‬ ‪#‎FLASHLIGHT2013‬

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    PaulT (profile), Sep 12th, 2013 @ 1:06am

    Re: Re: Hang on a minute...

    "No, I already thought that it was a dumb idea."

    Why?

    "In that case, why not place the songs in the public domain?"

    Oh believe me, I agree here. But reverting to the original owners is surely preferable to keeping them locked up ad infinitum by a corporation?

    Besides, once the song writer owns the copyright, they could conceivably so what they wish. This could include moving them into the public domain, applying a CC licence, etc. Most probably wouldn't, true, but it's a further possibility that isn't going to happen if Sony or whoever keeps all the rights. Once control is wrested away from the labels, there's a better chance of a reasonable copyright system being made for all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    Ninja (profile), Sep 12th, 2013 @ 4:21am

    Re: Re: D! M! C! A!

    We need to add a pirate to the Village People... ARRRRRRRRRRRRR

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    RyanNerd (profile), Sep 12th, 2013 @ 9:33am

    Side note

    Title needs to be changed. It is not Village People it is The Village People. In an interview they were very clear about this back in the 70's. That is if anyone remembers the 70's.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    jhn1, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 10:55pm

    Re: YMCA

    yes, and it also gives him more leverage if he is trying to negotiate a better-than-industry contract. It IS the song that currently defines people's memories of the group.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    PaulT (profile), Sep 13th, 2013 @ 1:53am

    Re: Side note

    Honest question: would anyone who cared enough about the Village People in the 70s to care about such things actually remember the 70s at all?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Lloyd Jassin, Sep 17th, 2013 @ 7:49am

    Willis Can't Stop the Music / Did NYT's Get it Wrong?

    The New York Times may have gotten it wrong. If the songs are indeed jointly owned, then Mr. Willis can't stop the music. Why? Any one of the joint authors can grant a non-exclusive license, subject to a duty to account to the other joint authors. And, beginning in 1909, Congress created a compulsory license right. Anyone can record a song withou consent of the writer or lyricist. Is this a victory for Mr. Willis? Abolutely. But, unless there are facts I'm not aware of, it's about money, not control.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    ymca1990, Feb 12th, 2014 @ 5:12am

    Re: You act like this is a bad thing!

    I like village people for sure, not just because peple are attributing it to gay music like the ymca lyrics. If you listen the lyrics well or read it.It actually a generic thing. anyone can direct this music to their personal desire or situation. like gender inequality in society, or racism or anyone not wanted in a society. so life without village people music wont console these kind of people. what do you think.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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