He wants to regain rights to “Yesterday” and more than 250 other songs
By David Sands
January 19, 2016
The long and winding road has led Paul McCartney to court. Sir Paul filed a suit against Sony/ATV Music in a New York court on Wednesday (Jan. 18) in an effort to get back the rights to a large catalog of Beatles songs.
Sony bought the 267 Beatles songs in question—most of which were co-written by McCartney with John Lennon—from Michael Jackson’s estate last year. Jackson purchased the songs which include “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude” in the 1980s, outbidding McCartney for the rights at the time and acrimoniously ending their friendship.
McCartney’s case is 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 the passage of a certain amount of time. The former Beatle is looking for a preliminary ruling from the court saying he will be able to regain control of his songs, which will be eligible for these termination rights in the U.S. beginning in October 2018.
Although artists like Bob Dylan, Prince and Blondie have been able to use this law to their advantage, U.K. law allows publishers to retain copyright over songs until 70 years after a songwriter’s death. Britain’s High Court recently ruled against Duran Duran in similar lawsuit, finding that the fact that their contracts had been signed in the U.K. superseded U.S. law.
John Lennon’s rights to the songs will not be at stake during the legal battle, as his widow Yoko Ono sold them to Sony/ATV Music in 2009.
Reacting to the lawsuit, Sony released the following statement:
“Sony/ATV has the highest respect for Sir Paul McCartney with whom we have enjoyed a long and mutually rewarding relationship with respect to the treasured Lennon & McCartney song catalog. We have collaborated closely with both Sir Paul and the late John Lennon’s Estate for decades to protect, preserve and promote the catalog’s long-term value. We are disappointed that they have filed this lawsuit which we believe is both unnecessary and premature.”
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