It seems that Paul McCartney is understandable worried that next year he will not receive an extremely valuable asset – the US publishing copyrights for The Beatles catalogue.
The U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 states that songwriters of material that was written before 1978 are able to have their publishing rights restored to them 56 years after they were originally signed away. For McCartney this should begin to take affect next year with The Beatles’ first single, 1962’s ‘Love Me Do’, expiring on Thursday October 5, 2018.
However, McCartney has began legal proceedings against Sony/ATV, claiming that label has been unresponsive in his requests for reassurance that the copyright transference will occur.
As reported by Music Business World, McCartney’s lawyers filed termination notices to Sony/ATV in 2008 for 170 Beatles songs. The huge list of songs, which are publicly available through the US Copyright Office, contain several of the band’s biggest hits, which are, considering that only last year Sony spent $750m (US) to fully acquire the ATV catalogue, extremely valuable.
ATV Music Publishing, the owners of The Beatles US publishing, was bought by Michael Jackson in 1984, and then merged with Sony Music Publishing in 1995.
Although the songs contain worldwide publishing rights, it is understood that Sony/ATV will retain these rights outside of the USA. John Lennon had his publishing rights for his half of the songs co-written with McCartney returned to his estate in 1990, as it was ten years after his death.
Watch this 1989 clip, in which McCartney details the circumstances that led to The Beatles signing away their song copyrights, as well as his displeasure at Michael Jackson’s purchase of the catalogue.