One of my all time favorite movies is the 1980 "Airplane," with Leslie Nielsen (Dr. Rumack), Robert Stack (Rex Kramer), Julie Hagerty (Elaine) and Robert Hays (Ted Striker; imdb.com says that David Letterman screen tested for the Striker role). The movie is perfect (except for lots of continuity gaffes), and shows the best comedy can be played straight. Who can ever forget Barbara Billingsley taking jive (link to wav file here), or the bar fight between the Girl Scouts? I particularly love and did so even more when it came out, the scene near the end when the airplane knocks off the antenna for the disco station. If there ever were people who deserve their own rung in Dante's Hell, it is those people involved in foisting disco on us; that wasn't music, it was torture. I am surprised the U.S. Army didn't use disco to force Manuel Noriega to surrender; I would have surrendered faster than one of the Village People could put on his lipstick.
It was, therefore, with great trepidation that I read two opinions involving a "song" from that era, "Disco Inferno," Dimension Music Publishing, LLC v. Kersey, 2006 WL 1983189 (E.D. Pa. July 12, 2006), 2006 1716568 (E.D. Pa. June 23, 2006). The opinions illustrate the continuing importance of registration and the foresight of those who drafted the 1992 Automatic Renewal Act (ahem, ahem, ahem). Readers will recall that the 1992 Act abolished for all times the requirement of renewal as a condition for copyright. If one counts back 28 years from 1992, you get 1964. Since December 31, 1977 was the last effective date for works created under the 1909 Act, the ARA has relevance for works first published between 1964 and 1977.
Here's the connection between disco "music" and renewal. "Disco Inferno” was performed by The Trampps, and reached number one on the Billboard disco chart in 1977, and was included on the soundtrack for the film Saturday Night Fever (no comment). It was written by two Philadelphia songwriters, Tyrone Kersey, a/k/a/ Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey and Leroy Green (Yo! Leroy?)Through lots of transfers, plaintiff came to allegedly own all rights, including the renewal rights. I am deeply skeptical the original agreement conveyed renewal rights, but for purposes of a summary judgment motion that issue was conceded for reasons that aren't explained.
The foresight of the 1992 drafters is seen in an obscure fact setting: an author files an application for renewal within the 28th year but dies before the renewal term begins. The 1992 Act takes care of this situation in Section 304(a)(2)(B)(ii). It is one of those nitpicky sections that can have important consequences. Those who want a different result might think of hiring a special care nurse until the beginning of the 29th year.