Paul McCartney vs Sony/ATV
The perennial rights battle between record companies and artists resurfaces with the news that Paul McCartney has sued music publisher Sony/ATV for ownership of songs that he co-wrote back in his days as a Beatles. Sat Bal
McCartney’s legal action follows hot on the heels of Duran Duran’s recent failure to secure copyright reversion of its hit songs. A similar claim by Paul McCartney filed in a New York court aims to “confirm his ownership” of Beatles’ compositions “which are granted to him by US copyright law.” The action follows the alleged reticence of Sony/ATV to green-light ownership despite previous filings that McCartney has reportedly made.
McCartney’s lawyers are staking his claim on the magic number, 56. Under the US 1976 Copyright
Act, the rights to songs written before 1978 revert to their writers 56 years after the date of the composer’s original copyright. McCartney's pre-emptive move thus aims to secure copyright in 2018, signifying 56 years after he and John Lennon began writing in 1962.
The distinction between Duran Duran’s failure and Paul McCartney’s success is likely to lie in national jurisdiction, with the latter hoping that his US legal rights will win the day.
Duran Duran (above at the MTV awards, Milan 2015) had expected to reclaim copyright by attempting to invoke the 35-year time limit permitted by US law. But the stunned band lost out when the UK High Court ruled that English contract prevailed over the band’s US statutory rights. Effectively, this English literal interpretation now denies the band copyright over 80s money-spinning hits such as Rio.
Mindful of this, it seems that Paul McCartney’s legal team will stay clear of the UK and aim to exploit the pro-artist climate espoused by the US legislature, as many American artists have found to their benefit.
While McCartney’s lawyers assert that a judicial declaration on the matter is now appropriate, since the terminations become effective next year, Sony/ATV claims that the action is “unnecessary and premature.” Naturally.