Thursday, January 19, 2017

Paul McCartney sues Sony/ATV over Beatles royalties: Looking at the suit

Paul McCartney filed a lawsuit Jan. 18 against SONY/ATV Music Publishing and SONY/ATV Tunes LLC for declaratory judgment seeking to confirm he will get back his portion of the Beatles song copyrights from SONY/ATV in October, 2018. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York.

The complex main document seeks to allow him to reclaim the ownership interests in the copyrights for many of the songs McCartney wrote for the Beatles that were credited to him and John Lennon in the 1960s and early 1970s. The suit states that McCartney had filed termination notices to get back his copyrights to the Beatles songs beginning in October, 2008. Most of the catalog was originally published by Maclen Music, but some songs were published by other companies, like Beechwood Music Corp. (“Love Me Do,” “P.S. I Love You”) and EMI Unart Catalog Inc. (“Bad To Me”).

Those termination dates that effectively give him back his copyrights become effective on Oct. 5, 2018. McCartney's legal brief asks a declaratory judgment to make it clear that he will get back his copyrights on that date. The pages of the lawsuit goes into the history of the music, going back to the days of the Beatles and the history of McCartney's many legal maneuvers to try and get back his copyrights.

The suit asks for a declaration that McCartney exercising his termination rights does not breach the publishing agreements, a ruling that the publishing agreements that conflict with McCartney's termination notices are unenforceable, plus legal costs. The suit also requests a jury trial. You can download the full complaint from The Hollywood Reporter. There's been no word of any reaction from any of the other Beatles.

Sony/ATV issued a statement replying to the suit that was published Wednesday by Billboard: “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. Sony/ATV will not be commenting further.”

McCartney announced a long-awaited reissue of his Flowers in the Dirt album in December. The reissue, to be released March 24, will include previously unreleased demos done by McCartney and his collaborator on the album Elvis Costello. It will be released in several configurations including an expensive four-disc (3 CDs, 1 DVD) version. .  

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