Sir Paul McCartney has again entered into a bid to regain the publishing rights to 32 Beatles songs he hasn't had said rights to since the 1960s. The former Beatles bassist filed a "notice of termination" with the U. S. Copyright Office this week in an effort to reclaim such now-classic works as "Hey Jude" and "Revolution."
The Washington Post reported March 22 that Paul McCartney, one of only two of the Beatles still living -- along with Ringo Starr -- and whose name appears on most of the band's songwriting credits (along with the late John Lennon), is attempting to reclaim the publishing rights to songs using guidelines set out by the U. S. Copyright Office. Billboard magazine, in breaking the story, reported that McCartney is taking advantage of the regulation that requires those seeking publishing ownership file from between 2 and 10 years prior to a 56-year copyright hold for a termination of the existing rights. For the 32 songs in question, the 56 years expires in 2018.
According to BBC News, Paul McCartney lost his rights to the Beatles song catalogue in the 1960s -- 1969, to be exact -- when the publishing house, ATV, formed with the other Beatles, their manager, and some outside investors, was sold without the co-signatories' knowledge. He's been chasing the publishing rights of those songs ever since.
The Michael Jackson estate's selling of its 50 percent share of Sony/ATV Music Publishing to Sony in a $750 million deal in mid-March put the Lennon-McCartney catalogue back in play. In fact, it was Michael Jackson's 1985 purchase of ATV for $41.5 million that ended a promising collaborative pairing with McCartney, where the duo wrote such hits as "Say, Say, Say" and "The Girl Is Mine." But the "We Can Work It Out" singer felt betrayed by his friend's acquisition of the company with full knowledge that McCartney and Yoko Ono, John Lennon's widow, were in the market to purchase the company.
After Michael Jackson's untimely death in 2009, it was rumored that the King of Pop might have left the rights to the Lennon-McCartney catalogue to Sir Paul. But there were no such instructions in Jackson's will, and McCartney would later write, as reported by The Guardian, that media reports describing his devastation at not being bequeathed the rights to the Beatles songs were "untrue" and that he had never considered that Jackson would leave the songs to him.
But 31 years after losing the ATV bid, nearly seven years after Michael Jackson's death, the rights to the Lennon-McCartney catalogue are owned by Sony, and it did not take Paul McCartney long to file to reclaim his lost publishing rights.
But why file for only 32 of some of the most lucrative songs ever? As the post explained, the 56-year hold on most of the Beatles catalogue doesn't expire until 2025.
Billboard quoted an anonymous source, “Only the McCartney half of the Lennon/McCartney songs are eligible for termination, and only for the U.S. Sony/ATV still owns [those] Beatles songs in the rest of the world.”
McCartney's filing seeks only to regain the singer's share of the publishing rights, and only in the United States. And why are the publishing rights so important?
As the Post noted, the critically acclaimed AMC cable network show "Mad Men" paid $250,000 to use “Tomorrow Never Knows” at the conclusion of a 2012 episode. And as previously mentioned, the Michael Jackson estate parlayed a $41.5 million deal in 1985 into a $750 million deal 31 years later. In short, Beatles songs do not come cheap when others seek to use the artist's material. Knowing this, Paul McCartney could soon reclaim at least his part of the publishing rights to songs that have been creatively, but not legally, his since 1969.