Paul McCartney Suing Sony Over The Beatles’ Songs

Stacey Cole - Author

Jan. 21 2017, Updated 7:49 a.m. ET

Paul McCartney is suing Sony in an attempt to win a battle Duran Duran lost, according to the BBC. In what has already been called one of the most important legal battles in music history, the 74-year-old singer is suing Sony over control of the publishing rights to The Beatles‘ back catalog.

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Paul McCartney has filed a legal case in a U.S. court seeking to regain control over the publishing rights to as many as 267 of The Beatles’ songs. The 21-time Grammy Award winner has been trying to regain control over the classic songs since the 1980s when Michael Jackson outbid McCartney for the rights.

But the estate of Jackson, who died on June 25, 2009, sold the band’s songs to Sony in 2016, along with other hit songs the late King of Pop had acquired in his lifetime. Paul McCartney’s legal battle with Sony is what is often referred to as copyright termination.

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In legal terms, copyright termination is when an artist has the right to regain ownership of their works from music publishers after some period. Paul McCartney is not the only artist to exercise copyright termination rights, which is part of the U.S. 1976 Copyright Act in court, as Prince, Billy Joel, and Duran Duran have previously used it to regain control over their music.

But many experts find similarities between the cases of Paul McCartney and Duran Duran, who lost its case last month when the court ruled that the contracts they signed in Britain took precedence over their rights in the U.S.

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Under U.K. law, music publishers are allowed to hold copyright rights until 70 years after the artist’s death. So basically Paul McCartney’s lawsuit was motivated by the singer’s fears that Sony could use Duran Duran’s legal loss to prevent him from regaining control over The Beatles’ songs.

In the legal papers filed on behalf of Paul McCartney, the singer is seeking to prevent Sony from challenging his attempts to regain the publishing rights to the songs. Sir Paul is worried that Sony could accuse him of a breach of contract or publishing agreement, according to Forbes.

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“Rather than provide clear assurances to Paul McCartney that defendants will not challenge his exercise of his termination rights, defendants are clearly reserving their rights pending the final outcome of the Duran Duran litigation.”

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While Paul McCartney says in the lawsuit that he is seeking “unclouded title” to his publishing rights, Sony has said it was “disappointed” by the former Beatle’s legal action and downplayed it as “unnecessary and premature.”

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Sony also said in the statement that it has “the highest respect” for Paul McCartney and added that it has “enjoyed a long and mutually rewarding relationship” with the singer.

Paul McCartney’s ongoing legal battle with Sony is of particular interest to British artists seeking to regain control over the publishing rights to their songs as, unlike Duran Duran, the singer has filed the papers in the U.S.

While some of The Beatles’ songs Paul McCartney is seeking to regain control over won’t be eligible for copyright termination in the U.S. until after 2025, the singer will be able to hold the publishing rights to “Love Me Do,” composed in 1962, as soon as next year.

Under U.S. law, songs become eligible for copyright termination after 56 years. Paul McCartney has been showering Sony with notices claiming publishing rights to the songs since 2008. But Sony has repeatedly declined to acknowledge Sir Paul’s rights to terminate copyright, the legal papers said.

With his lawsuit, Paul McCartney wants to get a confirmation from the U.S. court that he will be able to reclaim ownership of his songs as well as legal fees.

[Featured Image by KGC-143/STAR MAX/IPx/AP Images]


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