Homeowners Insurer Contributes to Settlement in Wis. Polka Suit

October 5, 2011

A Chippewa Falls polka musician has won a court battle involving his ex-wife and her new husband, who he accuses of stealing one of his most popular tunes.

Ray Rubenzer filed a federal copyright infringement lawsuit in June. He said he wrote and copyrighted “Yodelin’ Boy Polka” in 1978 and performed it with his wife, Lois, in their band, Guys and Gals, until the couple divorced in 1984.

Lois and her new husband David Melgaard later recorded “C’mon and Sing” with their band the Top Notchmen Band. Rubenzer claimed the song was really “Yodelin’ Boy Polka” with different lyrics.

The Melgaards initially claimed in federal court records that their song “was independently and innocently created,” that “Yodelin’ Boy Polka’ lacks originality” and if there was any copyright infringement, it was too slight to have legal significance.

But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports they agreed to a deal last month that requires the Melgaards to pay Rubenzer $25,000, give him all recordings of “C’mon and Sing” and acknowledge Rubenzer’s right, title and license to the song.
“The only way I’d sign it was if they admitted to it,” Rubenzer, 66, said last week. “I wanted to go to court and prove to everyone it was my song.”

The Melgaards’ attorney Michael Happe told The Associated Press on Monday that the couple paid $15,000 and their home owner’s insurance paid $10,000. He said they settled because they wanted the case resolved, but if they went to court he suspects they would have won.

“The only reason they did that was to get him out their lives,” he said. “It would have cost a lot more to litigate it than the $15,000 they paid.”

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