McCartney moves to reclaim his US copyrights

April 2016

Music Publishing



Following the news that Sony Corp was buying the Michael Jackson Estate out of its music publishing joint venture Sony/ATV at a cost of $750 million comes the revelation that Sir Paul McCartney is in the process of reclaiming US publishing rights for a huge chunk of The Beatles’ catalogue from Sony/ATV.  The former Beatle is using the provisions of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 stipulates that writers of pre-1978 tracks can reclaim their US publishing rights – if they’ve previously signed them away – after 56 years. The publishing rights for McCartney’s share of Beatles songs will begin expiring in 2018 – 56 years after the Fab Four’s first hit, “Love Me Do”, was penned and recorded in 1962. The Lennon/McCartney repertoire is amongst the most prized of Sony/ATV’s catalogue.
Music Business Worldwide trawled through the US Copyright Office’s records and discovered that McCartney filed termination notices last year for two batches of Fab Four tracks – “All You Need Is Love” and  23 other titles’. In addition “All Together Now” & 32 other titles had been filed. Between them, these filings included hits ranging from “Back In The USSR” to “Helter Skelter”, “Hey Jude”, “I Will”, “Revolution”, “Yellow Submarine”, “Get Back” and “Because”.
The reversion right kicks 35 years from any assignment by the songwriter, though for songs published before 1978 it is 56 years after the original deal was done. To exercise this right, a songwriter must file paperwork with the US Copyright Office no later than two years before the revision right date. And, according to Billboard, McCartney – who has talked about exercising his reversion rights with the media in the past. The reversion only applies to the US, and only covers McCartney’s share in the songs he co-wrote with John Lennon. Yoko Ono reportedly reached a new deal with Sony/ATV some years ago regarding Lennon’s share in the songs, which means the reversion right no longer applies.


MBW also dug through McCartney’s historical records with the US Copyright Office and discovered that the star has actually filed to terminate Sony/ATV’s US publishing rights to more than 170 Beatles songs in total – his first filing for copyright termination came in October 2008, when he filed for “Love Me Do” – the US publishing rights for which expire on October 5, 2018. Paul McCartney’s owned copyrights are managed by his own MPL Communications, which in turn is an administration client of Kobalt. According to Companies House filings McCartney is a minority shareholder in Kobalt Music Group.

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