Macho Man Songwriter Wins Termination Case

Village Peo­ple song­writer, lead singer and ersatz police offi­cer, Vic­tor Willis, has pre­vailed in a law­suit chal­leng­ing his ter­mi­na­tion of assign­ment (and result­ing recap­ture) of copy­right to his many hit songs.  To be hon­est, the deci­sion is very straight­for­ward and there really were not any dif­fi­cult issues pre­sented, par­tic­u­larly because the music pub­lisher with­drew its claim that the songs were works made for hire (which would have ren­dered any attempt to ter­mi­nate inef­fec­tive).  The only argu­ment advanced by the pub­lisher was that Mr. Willis could not ter­mi­nate his assign­ment because he was only one of sev­eral joint authors of the assigned songs.

This argu­ment was friv­o­lous, how­ever, because Willis trans­ferred his rights in a sep­a­rate agree­ment, to which he was the only sig­na­tory.  The statute is unusu­ally clear on the point that the “major­ity rule” require­ment of Sec­tion 203 only applies to sit­u­a­tions where mul­ti­ple joint authors exe­cute the same grant of rights.  This sort of sloppy think­ing con­fuses that which is ter­mi­nated (the grant of rights) with that which was trans­ferred (the copy­right inter­est).  Copy­rights are not ter­mi­nated, trans­fers are ter­mi­nated.  In any event, the court had no trou­ble read­ing the plain lan­guage of the statute, and promptly upheld the effi­cacy of Mr. Willis’s ter­mi­na­tion at the early, motion to dis­miss phase.

Here is a copy of the court’s decision:

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