Paul McCartney, Sony settle Beatles rights suit

Paul McCartneyPaul McCartney, Sony settle Beatles rights suit

Deal sidesteps what could have been an epic music industry legal battle

By David Sands
June 30, 2017

It had all the promise of being an earth-shattering legal case, but Paul McCartney’s battle with Sony over the rights to a large catalog of Beatles songs has ended more with a whimper than a bang.

The two parties have now settled the case which involved the ownership rights to 267 Beatles songs, most of which were co-written by McCartney and John Lennon. Details of the settlement have not been made public.

The songs were sold by Michael Jackson’s estate to Sony/ATV in 2015. Sir Paul had originally been interested in purchasing the catalog back in the 1980’s but was outbid at the time by Jackson.

McCartney filed suit against Sony in a New York federal court last year in order to get a preliminary court ruling to allow him to regain the rights to his songs. The case was founded on a provision of the U.S. 1976 Copyright Act dealing with copyright termination, which allows authors to get back the rights to their songs from publishers after a certain amount of time. The former Beatle would have been eligible for these termination rights in the U.S. starting in Oct. 2018.

The suit was complicated by the fact that in the U.K. publishers are allowed to retain rights to songs for 70 years after a songwriter’s death. And Britain’s high court had recently ruled against Duran Duran in a similar case, ruling that U.K. law trumped the U.S. copyright act.

By settling, Sony/ATV avoids a potential setback for publishers seeking to retain song copyrights.

“The parties have resolved this matter by entering into a confidential settlement agreement and jointly request that the Court enter the enclosed proposed order dismissing the above-referenced action without prejudice,” McCartney’s attorney Michael Jacobs wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos.

Any disputes over the settlement will be handled by the New York federal court where McCartney originally filed suit.

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