Dwight Yoakam Suing Warner Music

by Clayton Edwards

Country music star Dwight Yoakam is suing Warner Music. With the lawsuit, he aims to reclaim the rights to his past recordings. If he wins, Warner would no longer hold the rights to this older music. Yoakam would be the sole owner of the recordings.

The “Guitars, Cadillacs” singer is just the latest in a long line of artists seeking to regain control of their catalog, according to “Hollywood Reporter.” The publication points out that he isn’t the first but he is possibly the biggest star to do so.

Dwight Yoakam filed his suit against Warner Music on Monday in California’s federal court. Before that, he issued notices of termination to Warner and their subsidiary Rhino. While Rhino did acknowledge the notices, they tried to renegotiate copyright deals with the singer. That isn’t what Yoakam wants, though. He wants an official declaration that he is the sole owner of his work. Since they did not give him that in the beginning, Yoakam is now seeking damages on the grounds of copyright infringement.

In particular, Dwight Yoakam is seeking to reclaim recordings of both “Honky Tonk Man” and “Miner’s Prayer.”

Dwight Yoakam Has the Law on His Side

Legally speaking, Dwight Yoakam is well within his rights to reclaim some of his previous recordings from Rhino and Warner Music. The notices of termination that he sent to his label are based on Section 203 of the Copyright Act. This allows artists to reclaim rights to their intellectual property after a thirty-five year period. Both “Honky Tonk Man” and “Miner’s Prayer” are eligible to be reclaimed this year. They were both released in January of 1986.

This law not only allows Dwight Yoakam to reclaim the rights to his music but it also possibly makes his claims of copyright infringement valid. Once the notices of termination were sent and he declined to renegotiate his contract, the songs should have changed ownership. If Warner Music continues to hold his songs the claim of copyright infringement may stand. However, the court will have to sort all of that out in the coming weeks.

Dwight Yoakam’s lawyer, Richard Busch told “Hollywood Reporter”, “The termination rights Congress gave to artists like Mr. Yoakam to gain control back over their intellectual property are essential rights that should not be interfered with or delayed. We did not want to have to file this lawsuit, but we were forced to so for all of the reasons set forth in detail in the Complaint.”

At the time of writing “Honky Tonk Man” is still available on Warner Music Nashville’s YouTube Channel.