Yoakam is seeking copyrights to debut album
Dwight Yoakam is suing Warner Music Group for copyright infringement surrounding his debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc. Yoakam has been requesting that the copyrights for “Honky Tonk Man” and “Miner’s Prayer,” which appeared on his debut record released in March 1986, be turned over to him, in accordance with Section 203 of the Copyright Act, a law passed in 1976.
The provision permits original authors or their representatives to terminate copyright agreements and regain those rights at 35 years. Authors have to submit Notice of Termination grants within a five year window of the termination period. Yoakam has been requesting the copyrights for two years, with his representatives discussing the termination notices with Warner Music execs.
The lawsuit, filed Monday (Feb 8th) in the United States District Court of Central California, claims Yoakam was forced to file the suit after Warner Music and its subsidiary Rhino Records “refused to acknowledge and accept” his many notices to terminate the contract in “blatant disregard” of his rights. The suit states Warner Music does not want “their gravy train to end” after making “millions of dollars” from Yoakam’s music for the past 35 years.
Yoakam sent a final email in late January demanding the copyrights be turned over, along with a draft of the lawsuit filing.
The suit states Warner returned an email to Yoakam’s representatives on January 31, 2021, stating, “we have not yet made a decision as to how to proceed” after the they’d been proposing new terms to retain the copyrights. The country singer’s attorneys argue the label is “mistaken in their belief that they have any choice in returning Mr. Yoakam’s works to him,” in accordance to Copyright Law.
Yoakam has recorded more than 20 albums and compilations, charted more than 30 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, and sold more than 30 million records with Warner Music. He has recorded five Billboard No. 1 albums, 12 gold albums, and nine platinum albums, including the triple-platinum This Time. Yoakam defined the new Bakersfield Sound in the modern era.
As of this writing, “Honky Tonk Man” and “Miner’s Prayer,” which were initially part of a six song EP Yoakam financed and produced in 1984-1985 before signing to Warner’s Reprise Records imprint and being released on his debut, have been removed from some streaming and digital outlets.
We’ll have more details as they become available.