Sid Bernstein’s Estate fails in its copyright claim over the Beatles’ Shea Stadium film

August 2017

Live events sector, film, TV


A New York judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought the estate of promoter Sid Bernstein, who staged the Beatles’ legendary 1965 show at Shea Stadium. The Estate had argued that band’s Apple Corps had infringed on the copyright of Sid Bernstein Presents by including footage from the concert in ron Howard’s  documentary film Eight Days a Week – the Toruing Years which was released in September 2016 


The Estate’s action sought ownership (or joint ownership) of the master tapes and copyright by Bernstein’s company, Sid Bernstein Presents, arguing that, “[w]ithout Sid, the mastermind of the event, this film would never have been made”.


Copyright to the film, originally released in 1966 as The Beatles at Shea Stadium, was acquired by Apple Corps and the band’s Subafilms, from their management company, Nems Enterprises.

In a ruling on the 26th July, Judge George B. Daniels, in the US District Court for Southern New York, said the company could not claim ownership of the footage as Bernstein did not himself film the concert, instead signing over the rights to do so to Nems. Judge Daniels held:  “The relevant legal question is not the extent to which Bernstein contributed to or financed the 1965 concert …. [R]ather, it is the extent to which he ‘provided the impetus for’ and invested in a copyrightable work” and “The complaint and relevant contracts clearly refute any such claim by Bernstein. By the express terms of the Nems-Bernstein contract, Bernstein had no control over the filming of the concert” and that the contract signed in 1965 “reserves no rights whatsoever for Bernstein in any filming or recording of the concert.”


Berstein, who died in 2013 aged 95, never asserted any claim over the film. In its original motion to have the lawsuit dismissed, lawyers for Apple Corps and Subafilms Limited claimed Bernstein had no creative control over, nor input into, the filming of the show or the production of the 1966 movie, “The Beatles at Shea Stadium.”


Sid Bernstein Presents’ lawyer, Donald Curry said client intends to appeal the decision.

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