Victor Willis, likely more recognizable as the “police man” from the popular group the Village People, recently scored a significant copyright victory. After signing away his rights to popular songs like “YMCA” and “In the Navy” in the 1970s, he is again a rightful copyright owner.

Willis, who helped write the lyrics to more than 33 of the Village People’s songs, was able to recover his rights under a U.S. copyright law governing termination rights. The Copyright Act provides a termination right for the prior grant of a copyright transfer or license if the grant was made prior to January 1, 1978. Termination may be effected at any time during a five-year-period beginning at the end of thirty-five years from the date of execution of the grant.

The rationale is that copyright owners of popular works may not have had the bargaining power to secure favorable terms when the deal was originally signed. Therefore, they should be afforded a second bite at the apple.

While most artists who regain control over copyrights sign them back over to the music company after renegotiating a new deal, Willis told the New York Times that he is unsure of his next steps.

“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.”

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– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +