Sir Paul McCartney is suing Sony/ATV in an attempt to secure the reversion of US Beatles publishing copyrights next year.
As previously reported by MBW, McCartney began the process of reclaiming the publishing rights to 178 Beatles songs in the US market in 2008.
The U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 stipulates that writers of pre-1978 tracks can start reclaiming their Stateside publishing rights 56 years after signing them away.
That means the US publishing rights for McCartney’s share of Beatles songs will begin expiring in 2018, 56 years after the Fab Four’s first hit, Love Me Do, was penned and recorded in 1962.
In addition to Love Me Do, the US publishing rights to hits including All You Need Is Love and I Want To Hold Your Hand are due to expire in the coming years.
McCartney’s lawsuit claims that Sony/ATV has so far failed to confirm that it will agree to transfer these copyrights to the songwriter when its legal rights expire – despite repeated requests.
“Paul McCartney has today filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York against Sony/ATV to confirm his ownership in his US reversionary copyrights.”
A spokesperson for McCartney said: “Paul McCartney has today filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York against Sony/ATV to confirm his ownership in his US reversionary copyrights, which are granted to him by US copyright law, in the songs he wrote with John Lennon and recorded with The Beatles. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and bears the case no. 17cv363.”
McCartney’s first filing for copyright termination came in October 2008, when he filed for Love Me Do – the US publishing rights for which expire on October 5, 2018.
Since then, McCartney has filed a number of additional termination requests for his US publishing share, including a single batch containing no less than 40 compositions in December 2010.
“For years following service of the first Termination Notices, Defendants gave no indication to Paul McCartney that they contested the efficacy of Paul McCartney’s Termination Notices,” reads McCartney’s lawsuit. “Defendants’ affiliates did, however, oppose at least one other artist’s terminations of transfers under the terms of the 1976 Copyright Act.”
That appears to be a reference to Duran Duran’s recent failed attempt to terminate Sony/ATV’s ownership of their songs – the result of a trial which took place in the UK in December.
“For years following service of the first Termination Notices, Defendants gave no indication to Paul McCartney that they contested the efficacy of Paul McCartney’s Termination Notices.”
Duran Duran’s lawyers tried to use US copyright termination rules as a basis for their case, but the court sided with the English interpretation of the law – ensuring the songs remained under Sony/ATV’s control.
Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon said of the ruling: “Sony/ATV’s conduct has left a bitter taste with us for sure, and I know that other artists in similar positions will be as outraged and saddened as we are. We are hopeful this judgment will not be allowed to stand.
“We issued termination notices for our copyrights in the US believing it simply a formality. After all, it’s the law in America.
“Sony/ATV has earned a tremendous amount of money from us over the years. [This] feels like the ugly and old-fashioned face of imperialist, corporate greed. I thought the acceptability of this type of treatment of artists was long gone – but it seems I was wrong.”
Paul McCartney’s owned copyrights are managed by his own MPL Communications, which in turn is an administration client of Kobalt.Music Business Worldwide