McCartney sues to Get Back the Beatles

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With the immense transformation undertaken by the music industry over the last twenty years, it’s comforting to note some things haven’t changed. While formats, listening habits, and popular genres are (as always) in a state of flux, at least for now the music industry’s rabid propensity for litigation remains undiminished.

In recent news, Paul McCartney has filed legal papers in New York against Sony/ ATV for a declaratory judgement that confirms he will regain copyright ownership for the music he authored with John Lennon.

The British superstar will attempt what compatriots Duran Duran recently failed to achieve; to ensure that US copyright law- which allows authors to terminate license agreements of their works and regain copyright after 56 years total- cannot supersede foreign contracts. Tellingly, this suit was filed in New York, although whether the decision can and will be recognised outside of the United States should it be successful remains unknown.

The Lennon/McCartney catalogue (of over 250 songs) has been the topic of much controversy already. In 1985, Michael Jackson, acting on advice from McCartney himself, outbid everyone with $47.5 million bid; a decade later, Jackson sold half the catalogue to Sony/ ATV for $115 million. Shortly after Jackson’s death, his estate sold the remaining half for $750 million.

With figures like these, it comes as no surprise that McCartney is just one of many pop superstars engaged in a heated copyright battle. With streaming services expanding rapidly- and the ownership of copyright infringement tools also the centre of aggressive litigation- it’s a timely reminder to all businesses how valuable- and how fiercely protective the industry is- of copyright and licensing.

With figures like these, it comes as no surprise that McCartney is just one of many pop superstars engaged in a heated copyright battle. With streaming services expanding rapidly, and ownership of copyright infringement tools also the centre of aggressive litigation, these lawsuits serve as a reminder to businesses how valuable- and fiercely protective- the industry is of copyright and licensing compliance.

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