Dwight Yoakam Suing Warner Music Over Recording Rights

Yoakam’s debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. was released 35 years ago

Dwight Yoakam is suing label Warner Music to reclaim the rights to some of his older recordings.

Yoakam filed the lawsuit in federal court in California on Monday (Feb. 8), and claims the label declined to confirm his right to reclaim copyrights to a portion of his music, specifically the recordings “Honky Tonk Man” and “Miner’s Prayer.”

According to a complaint obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Yoakam sent notices of termination in accordance with Section 203 of the Copyright Act, which was made law in the 1970s and allows authors to cancel copyright grants and reclaim rights after a set period of time—for newer copyrights, that term expires after a period of 35 years.

Yoakam’s debut album, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., which contained the songs “Honky Tonk Man,” “Miner’s Prayer” and “Guitars, Cadillacs,” released 35 years ago in 1986, via Warner imprint Reprise. His follow-up album Hillbilly Deluxe, which included the Top 10 hits “Little Sister,” “Please, Please Baby,” “Little Ways” and “Always Late With Your Kisses,” released one year later.

According to the suit, Warner subsidiary Rhino suggested new deal terms after receiving the notice, but Yoakam claims the label would not provide the singer-songwriter with a definitive confirmation that he had recaptured works, specifically his recordings of “Honky Tonk Man” and “Miner’s Prayer.” Yoakam sent more notices, as well as a draft version of the complaint, but was only told some works would be “taken down.”

Yoakam has brought in Nashville-based King & Ballow attorney Richard Busch, most famously known for his successful defense of the “Blurred Lines” verdict appeal, in which he accused Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke of lifting portions of Marvin Gaye’s classic “Got to Give It Up” for their hit “Blurred Lines,” and earned more than $5 million in damages for Gaye’s family in 2018. Busch has also represented Megan Thee Stallion.

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Busch said, “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.”