Paul McCartney Is Taking Back His Publishing Rights To Beatles Music

Paul McCartney never forgave Michael Jackson for buying ATV, the company who published the Beatles’ music, in what McCartney saw as a betrayal of their friendship. He is now in a position that allows him to begin getting back the publishing rights to some of that music, and the Washington Post is reporting that he is taking steps to do just that.

Paul and the rest of the Beatles formed ATV with their manager, Brian Epstein, and some outside investors back in the 60s as a publishing company for their music. When Epstein died in 1967, ATV was sold without the Beatles’ knowledge. They had lost the publishing rights to their songs.

In the 80s, McCartney collaborated with Michael Jackson on some songs. They released some successful songs, like The Girl Is Mine and Say, Say, Say.

Paul and Michael became friends, and Paul gave his friend some advice for working in the music industry, things he had learned through his years with the Beatles and his many other musical successes. Among that advice was that music publishing rights can be a good investment. In Michael Jackson: The Magic, The Madness, The Whole Story, author J. Randy Taraborrelli says the following.

“When Michael told Paul, ‘Maybe someday I’ll buy your songs,’ Paul laughed.

” ‘Great,’ he said. ‘Good joke.’

“Michael wasn’t joking. Paul would one day regret their conversation.

” ‘I gave him a lot of free advice,’ he would later say. ‘And you know what? A fish gets caught by opening his mouth.’ “

In 1985, McCartney tried to buy ATV back for $20 million in a joint investment with Yoko Ono. Their attempt failed, and Michael Jackson jumped in and bought it for $47.5 million. McCartney later said the following.

“Someone rang me up one day and said, ‘Michael’s bought your songs… I said, ‘What??!!’ I think it’s dodgy to do things like that. … To be someone’s friend and then to buy the rug they’re standing on.”

Billboard has confirmed that Paul McCartney has filed a notice of termination, the beginning of the process to regain publishing rights for the Beatles music. What is a notice of termination? Billboard explains it like this.

“In order to reclaim publishing ownership of a song, a songwriter must file with the U.S. Copyright Office, terminating the publishing anywhere from 2 to 10 years before the 56 years elapse, in order to obtain ownership of that song’s publishing in a timely manner. (If the writer doesn’t put in a notice within that window, they have another five-year period to reclaim the copyrights but each day’s delay adds another day that the publisher owns the copyright.)”

The 56-year period for the catalog of songs in which Paul McCartney is interested begins in 2018. So in order to get the rights back, Paul had to file his notice of termination between 2008 and 2016. He filed it the end of 2015 for 32 songs. There are many more songs for which the 56-year period will end in 2025. McCartney will need to file a notice of termination for those songs by 2023.

Paul McCartney is 73-years-old. He has been married three times — to Linda McCartney, from 1969 until her death in 1998, then to Heather Mills from 2002 to 2008, and to his current wife, Nancy Shevell, who he married in 2011. Paul has five children: Stella McCartney, Mary McCartney, Beatrice McCartney, Heather McCartney, and James McCartney. He is one of the most successful performers and composers in history. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, once as a member of the Beatles in 1988, and then as a solo artist in 1999. He has earned 60 Gold Discs and has written or co-written nearly 200 songs that placed on music charts. Of those nearly 200, 91 reached the top 10, and 33 hit No. 1.

[Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images]