Scorpio Music S.A. v. Willis

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: 05-07-2012
  • Case #: 11cv1557
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Moakowitz
  • Full Text Opinion

A partial owner could terminate his or her right, so long as it was only for his or her part.

Victor Willis was the original singer of the Village People, and has a credit translating music and lyrics between 1977 and 1979. Willis gave a notice of termination on the copyright of 33 compositions in the post-1977 period; however, he was not the only credited artist. The percentage of Willis’s ownership interest was disputed. Despite receiving royalties on only a third of many of the songs, Willis said his interest in ownership was half. While Scorpio Music insisted that Willis’s interest in the copyrights had been settled by decades of royalty payments, the court found that inaction on royalties did not prevent Willis from correcting his ownership stake. However, the ownership stake was not taken up in this suit. The question the court resolved was whether a partial owner of a copyright could give notice of termination of the copyright even if not the majority owner. The court found that there was no reason a partial owner could not terminate his or her right, so long as it was only for his or her part. The court GRANTED the motion to dismiss in favor of Willis.

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