Polka musician reaches copyright infringement settlement with ex-wife

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

You may remember a story we shared with you over the summer about a polka singer who sued his ex-wife for copyright infringement. In 1978 the musician wrote the song, “‘Yodelin’ Boy Polka” and performed it regularly with his wife from then until their divorce in 1984. When the ex-wife and her current band began playing a song that apparently sounded surprisingly similar, the musician filed a copyright infringement lawsuit alleging that they stole the melody from “Yodelin’ Boy Polka.”

The ex-wife had initially claimed that her song “C’mon and Sing” was created independently and innocently. That she had found herself humming the melody and then simply added lyrics. Now however the musician and hi sex-wife have entered into an agreement to close the lawsuit that clearly acknowledges that the later song infringed upon the earlier one.
Before acknowledging that the song was infringing, the ex-wife and her band had asserted that many polka songs sounded the same, and that even if there was some infringement it was too slight to have any legal significance. They also argued that the “‘Yodelin’ Boy Polka” lacked originality in the first place.

In the end though, the ex-wife’s band admitted that they had infringed on the musician’s song. The polka musician explained that this was the only way that he would accept the settlement, if it was clear to everyone that they had copied his song. In additiaon to the moral and reputational victory, the consent judgment also calls for a payment to the polka musician of $25,000.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel “It takes two to tango, but only one ex-spouse has rights to polka” Bruce Vielmetti, Oct. 2, 2011