9:29am Thursday 10th May 2012
By Ben Frampton
THE Newport-based member of Village People has won the rights to a back catalogue of songs which are said to make millions of pounds each year.
Victor Willis, who was the motorcycle cop in the iconic group, has been awarded copyrights to 33 songs that he wrote or co-wrote during his career.
He now owns at least one-third of the copyrights to the Village People back catalogue and there will be legal arguments to see if Mr Willis will get up to 50 per cent.
He claims there was only one other co-writer of songs, Jacques Morali, and Henri Belolo, who was also credited, did not contribute.
The hits Mr Willis won copyrights to include YMCA, In the Navy, and Macho Man.
Mr Willis was given permission by a judge to terminate his existing rights from record company Scorpio Music S.A. and re-take them, entitling him to this new share from now on.
The record label argued Mr Willis was an employee between 1977 and 1979, hired to write and translate lyrics, so had no claim to the copyright as he would get between 12 and 20 per cent of gross receipts for his work.
But on Monday Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California Barry Ted Moskowitz ruled in Mr Willis’ favour, saying he was not working for hire and was therefore entitled to take his one-third share.
Mr Willis’ publicist, Linda Smythe, said: “This is the decision the record industry has been waiting for and it’s finally here. To say this decision will send shockwaves through the record industry is an understatement.”
Ms Smythe said the Village People catalogue still grosses millions of dollars each year.
City move after marriage
MR WILLIS came to Newport after marrying Karen Willis, who grew up here.
Mrs Willis was born in America, but moved to the UK with her mother and three siblings as a child.
They settled in Stow Hill when she was three and she stayed here until she was 23, when she went to study in America.
In the early 1990s, Mrs Willis, a lawyer, met her future husband in a San Francisco restaurant. At the time she had no idea who he was.
When he told her, Mrs Willis thought he was joking. For the next ten years, however, the two were friends and kept in touch.
Then, in 2004, the couple started going out and got married in 2006 before settling in Newport.
Early last year they moved to southern California as they fought this legal battle.
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