Dwight Yoakam Lawsuit Heats Up After ‘Guitars, Cadillacs’ Pulled

The songs from Dwight Yoakam’s debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc. from 1986 remain unavailable via download and streaming services after they first disappeared on March 3rd amid a pending lawsuit between Yoakam and the Warner Music Group. Now Warner has answered Dwight Yoakam’s claims that the copyrights for the music should revert back to him, saying Yoakam’s requests are invalid.

Dwight Yoakam sued the Warner Music Group for failing to return the copyrights to his songs from Guitars, Cadillacs per Section 203 of the Copyright Act. This is a much-argued provision of United States Copyright law originally enacted in the Copyright Act of 1976 that states that after 35 years, original authors can cancel the copyright grants signed away to others, and reclaim the rights for themselves. Guitars Cadillacs turned 35 in March of 2021.

“[They] have profited off of Mr. Yoakam’s artistry for decades and yet now refuses him his basic right of copyright recapture granted under the Copyright Act,” Yoakam’s lawsuit states.

According to the case filed in the United States District Court of Central California on February 8th (see in full), Yoakam first notified Warner of his intentions to regain his copyrights back in February of 2019, and sent the company termination notices for the copyrights. In December of 2020, Yoakam then submitted his own copyright notices to be officially recorded with the United States Copyright Office.

For over two years, the Warner Music Group did not respond to Yoakam’s requests to transfer ownership of the copyrights, according to the lawsuit. So on January 29th, 2021, Yoakam sent a final notice to Warner threatening to sue if no action was taken. Yoakam did end up filing suit on February 9th.

Now Warner Music is saying that the reason they are refusing to terminate Dwight Yoakam’s copyrights is because he’s actually not eligible to regain them until 2030, and even if it was eligible in 2021, his request to do so came five days after a statutory period that starts five years from the end of 35 years from the date of the grant. That period ended on January 31st, 2019, according to Warner Music, but Warner says it did not receive Yoakam’s requests until February 5th, 2019.

Hypothetically, Warner made the album unavailable so they do not earn any further profit from the title that may come into dispute as the lawsuit unfolds. But Yoakam’s lawsuit claims pulling the tracks is causing irreparable damage and lost revenue, and is seeking $1 million from Warner in reparations.

According to Billboard, Dwight Yoakam filed an amended lawsuit on March 29th, which also looks to reclaim the copyrights for “Little Sister” (1987), “Just Lookin’ For a Hit” (1989), “Takes a Lot to Rock You” (1991), “Heart That You Own” (1992), “Thousand Miles from Nowhere” (1993), “Ain’t That Lonely Yet” (1993) “Pieces of Time” (1994), and “Gone” (1995).

A court hearing is set for May 10 to address Warner Music’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. But in the meantime, many Dwight Yoakam fans are left not being able to hear one of Dwight’s Yoakam’s most iconic albums, while those who still own physical copies are saying “I told you so.”

Dwight’s Guitars, Cadillacs isn’t the only album to disappear recently. Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose was recently pulled for undisclosed reasons, as well as a number of selections from the Townes Van Zandt catalog.

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