According to TMZ (via Pitchfork), Paul McCartney has filed a lawsuit against Sony/ATV Music Publishing to try and ensure that he can regain ownership of some Beatles songs. As we reported last year, McCartney is hoping to take advantage of a copyright rule in the U.S. that allows the rights to songs written before 1978 to be returned to their original songwriter after a period of 56 years, with the first eligible Beatles songs hitting the milestone in 2018. According to this lawsuit, McCartney has gone through the necessary channels to make that happen, but Sony has apparently indicated that it won’t hand over these rights—which include stuff like “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “All You Need Is Love”—without a fight.
It doesn’t sound like Sony has outright refused to cooperate with McCartney on this, but TMZ says he “kept getting the run around” and wanted to try and force the issue a bit. It’s hard to say, but perhaps Sony’s hesitancy has something to do with the fact that it just bought the rights to these songs from the Michael Jackson estate for $750 million last year, so it has barely had any time to make money off of them.
Also, as an added wrinkle, this all only applies to McCartney’s share of the song rights, as Yoko Ono has some sort of deal with Sony/ATV that lets the company retain John Lennon’s share of the rights until the copyright expires. That will happen 70 years after the death of McCartney—not Lennon—because all of the songs are credited to both of them and therefore they both have to die. As we said last year, this is all very fun.