Episode 16: Paul McCartney sues Sony/ATV Over the Beatles’ Music Rights
James Sammataro, Managing Partner of Stroock, Stroock, & Lavan’s Miami office returns to the podcast to discuss Paul McCartney’s recent declaratory action against music publisher Sony/ATV over the ownership of some of the Beatles’ most famous songs!
Mr. McCartney’s suit involves a claim of copyright termination. Under this legal concept, authors — or any creators — have the right to reclaim ownership of their works from publishers after a specific length of time has passed. This concept originated in the 1976 Copyright Act and performers and songwriters have utilized the remedy to regain control of their work.
Initially, Mr. McCartney and John Lennon signed a series of publishing contracts in Britain beginning in 1962. The suit contends that in a series of remarks and emails to Mr. McCartney’s lawyers, Sony/ATV executives alluded to the recently decided Duran Duran case and refused to confirm that he could reclaim his rights in popular songs like “Love Me Do,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “All You Need Is Love.”1 The suit asks for a declarative judgment that Mr. McCartney would not be violating any contract by exercising his termination rights.
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In the Duran Duran case, a judge ruled that the band’s original contract was governed by British law, which barred it from reclaiming rights in the United States. Under United States law, this power cannot be waived by contract.↩