Village People star Victor Willis is one step closer to regaining control over the disco group's song rights after music publishers dropped a key claim in their argument.
Singer/songwriter Willis, who portrayed a traffic cop in the band, left the line-up in 1979. He filed suit last year (11) to win back ownership of tracks such as Y.M.C.A. under a U.S. copyright provision, which can be activated after 35 years.
Executives at France-based Scorpio Music and its American affiliate Can't Stop Productions hit back at the legal action, alleging Willis was not entitled to the rights because he was employed as "a writer for hire" and "therefore has no rights" to any ownership over the songs.
But the defendants withdrew that claim this week (begs19Mar12), giving Willis' case a boost as he seeks to be recognised as an author of the tunes in his own right.
The singer's publicist, Linda Smythe, says, "The work for hire issue is expected to be the main argument by record companies and publishers against artists seeking to terminate.
"Essentially, the publishers had no choice but to cave on the issue of work for hire and they did so by dismissing that part of their claim."
The case will now go before a California judge, who will decide whether to dismiss the countersuit the record label executives filed against Willis.
The star has not performed with the Village People since 1984.