|Paul McCartney wants to have his share of the song catalogue back.|
In the 1980s, Michael Jackson bought a publishing company which incorporated the Beatles songs originally published by Northern Songs. Jackson later entered a joint venture with Sony/ATV, and last year, his estate sold the late pop singer's remaining interest to Sony.
Under US copyright law, the rights to the songs will revert back to the original composer 56 years after they were first copyrighted. In the case of the Beatles songs, the return of these rights will be starting in 2018 with "Love Me Do" on October 5.
However, last year UK band Duran Duran unsuccessfully attempted to regain their own rights under the termination protocol outlined by U.S. copyright law. In December, Sony scored a shocking win when an English court ruled that American termination law took a backseat to an interpretation of contracts under English law. The justices determined that Duran Duran's contractual promise to not transfer its interest in copyrights foreclosed its ability to terminate a grant of rights as a transfer of reversionary interest from the song publisher to themselves.
Apparently, that has given Sony hopes of pulling off the same maneuver with respect to Beatles songs, and McCartney is trying to counter this by suing in an American court.
A provision of the Copyright Act allows authors and co-authors to reclaim the copyrights in their works after a set period of time, provided that they serve termination notices on the current rights holder. One aspect of the law gives authors who transferred their interests in their works before Jan. 1, 1978, the ability to reclaim the rights. McCartney began to serve termination notices in October 2008. The terminations begin to be effective in 2018.
Documents filed in this case has another revelation: Sony has made arrangements with respect to John Lennon’s share and will retain its worldwide rights in his share of the compositions for the life of the copyright. So it seems they have made a deal with Yoko Ono.
A spokeswoman for Sony/ATV said, in a 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."
The Hollywood Reporter has more about this case.