We all know who Paul McCartney is. We’ve all heard many songs from The Beatles’ large catalog of music, and many of us love the band. At the very least, we’ve all had “Hey Jude” in our head at one point or another. While McCartney has been flying somewhat under the radar lately, his name is back in court, in a big way lqumqer. McCartney and some of his publishing companies have a case pending before a federal district court in New York over the ownership of the copyrights to a good deal of McCartney’s songs – and McCartney just took the case a step further.
First, a little background. When artists compose works, they frequently assign their copyright interests to publishing companies in exchange for things like royalties. McCartney, with fellow Beatle John Lennon, composed the bulk of The Beatles’ catalog jointly, making them co-authors and co-owners of the copyrights. As such, they could assign the copyrights as they saw fit. Over the years, the pair created two companies, to which they assigned the “full copyright for all countries of the world.” These companies then entered into publishing agreements with publishers, and assigned the publishers the copyrights in exchange for royalty payments.
This is where Defendants Sony/ATV Music Publishing, LLC and Sony/ATV Tunes, LLC come into play. A series of transfers happened over the years, and Defendants ended up acquiring the copyright interests to a good deal of the songs composed by McCartney and Lennon, including “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “All You Need Is Love.” McCartney now wants those rights back.
US Copyright law allows for the termination of the grant of rights, if done within the correct parameters. McCartney followed these parameters and properly served Termination Notices on the Defendants. After much back and forth between the parties, during which Defendants were uncooperative, McCartney filed for a Declaratory Judgment against them. Specifically, McCartney wants the court to declare that the Termination Notices are effective, and that they will not give rise to any valid contractual claims against him. Defendants deny these allegations.
Curious as to what type of legal claims the Defendants might have? Or why they are being so difficult? Be on the lookout next week for Part 2 of this 3 part series that will take you through McCartney’s case.