As a singer and songwriter for the 1970s disco group the Village People, Victor Willis scored multiple hits that helped define that era for the baby boom generation. Now, Willis (the one dressed as a motorcycle cop, not the cowboy, the construction worker, the Native American or the biker) stands to collect a larger share of the money those hits generate. This month he won a legal battle to reclaim his share of the copyrights to the songs he co-wrote, including such classics as “Y.M.C.A.” and “Macho Man.” It’s a step many other top artists from that era are starting to take as well, threatening to shake up the industry even more than the disco revolution did.

For almost as long as the law has protected copyrights, it has also given creators the ability to reclaim the rights they assign to publishers and distributors. The justification is that authors, songwriters and other creators have little bargaining power when they’re just starting their careers, so they should have a chance to renegotiate after they’re well established.

Some major legal issues remain to be resolved by the courts, including identifying which compositions or recordings are “works for hire” — ones that artists can’t reclaim the rights to because they were created at the behest of a label or publisher.

Another question is what rights will be reclaimed from the record companies by music producers, some of whom did practically everything but sing for the artists they recorded. In the meantime, Willis’ victory has made many more artists aware of the chance they have to reclaim their rights, or at the very least win a larger share of the money their songs are still making.