Paul McCartney Seeks to Terminate Sony’s Copyright Interests in Legendary Beatles’ Tracks

Paul McCartney has commenced a full-out mission to re-acquire complete ownership of the copyright interests in the Beatles’ songs Sony acquired rights to 50 years ago. On January 11, 2016, McCartney sought confirmation from a New York federal judge on that he will not face breach of contract liability in the process.

McCartney filed termination notices in 2008 pursuant to a provision in the Copyright Act, which affords song-makers whose songs were made prior to 1978 the right to terminate copyright licenses and assignments after 56 years from the date of the original copyright. The notice thus seeks to place the songs McCartney and John Lennon collaborated on in the 60s and 70s back under his complete control as of 2018. Sony hasn’t exactly comforted McCartney with assurance that his pursuit will proceed without contest, however, which precipitated McCartney’s quest for approval from the New York judge a few weeks ago.

This wasn’t Sony’s first run-in with an artist seeking to terminate its copyright rights. Duran Duran was hit with a breach of contract suit brought by Sony in the U.K. over a similar dispute not too long ago. That case is still playing out, and Sony appears to be keeping somewhat quiet in anticipation of its outcome before it becomes vocal about how it will handle McCartney’s efforts, notwithstanding its refusal to assure McCartney it wouldn’t treat him the same as it did Duran Duran.

Sony and McCartney will most certainly not be the only ones on the edge of their seats as the Duran Duran litigation unfolds. The entire music industry is biting its nails in anticipation, because of the outcome’s potential to encourage other artists similarly situated to attempt to reclaim ownership over their songs — particularly considering that this particular legal tool will only be available to those whose song writing career has become a thing of the past.

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