Are Sir Paul McCartney’s copyright reversion up in the air pending the possible Duran Duran appeal?

April 2017

Music Publishing

We have previously reported that Sir Paul McCartney had filed a lawsuit against Sony/ ATV. In this lawsuit McCartney is attempting to reclaim the rights to the 267 songs he co-wrote with John Lennon throughout the 1960s when they were members of the Beatles.

Sony/ ATV had previously labelled the lawsuit “unnecessary and premature” in a statement, now it appears they have furthered this by explaining that it is not a matter for the court. In a letter to the court they have stated that “As an initial matter, Sony/ ATV has made no statement challenging the validity of plaintiff’s termination notices”.

Does this mean that it is disputed that there is even a dispute?  Sony/ ATV have been put on notice that McCartney will be attempting to reclaim the copyright, and as of yet they have not said they will attempt to block the reversion of the copyright. However, it looks as if Sony/ ATV are looking to the outcome of the Duran Duran case that is going through the appeal procedure in the UK before they make a move.

At first instance in the Duran Duran case, Arnold J found that on the application of English law, where copyright reversion is not recognised, the American principle of copyright reversion could not be applied.

Sony has stated that “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 in the U.K”.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that Paul McCartney wants to have the disputed dispute to be heard in an American court, as this is where the statutory right of reversion would overtake a contractual right.  On the other hand, if Sony/ ATV do decide to dispute the copyright reversion, they would prefer to have the claim heard in an English court where copyright reversion is not recognised but only once they know where they stand with the Duran Duran case.

One thing is for sure, if the Duran Duran case is successful on appeal the gates will be open to those wishing to reclaim their copyright. I am certainly optimistic about an English court recognising the American principle.


By Samuel O’Toole LLB (Hons) Trainee Solicitor at Lawdit Music

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