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Paul McCartney sues Sony to reclaim rights to Beatles songs

Paul McCartney is taking Sony/ATV Music Publishing to court to reclaim the copyrights for many of his original Beatles compositions. 

At issue is the copyright ownership of Beatles classics like “All You Need is Love,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Yesterday,” “Hey Jude” and more. 

In the lawsuit, filed in a New York federal court, McCartney cites a provision of the Copyright Act that allows songwriters to reclaim the copyrights to their works after a period of time, provided that they serve termination notices to the current rights holder. McCartney began serving Sony/ATV with such notices in 2008, with the terminations becoming effective in 2018. 

McCartney wasn’t previously worried about that the publisher would give him any trouble, but a current dispute in the U.K. involving the band Duran Duran has given him reason to be nervous.

“For years following the service of the first termination notices, defendants gave no indication to Paul McCartney that they contested the efficacy of Paul McCartney’s termination notices,” the lawsuit stated. 

“Rather than provide clear assurances to Paul McCartney that defendants will not challenge his exercise of his termination rights, defendants are clearly reserving their rights pending the final outcome of the Duran Duran litigation in the U.K. If that goes as defendants hope, defendants evidently intend to challenge Paul McCartney’s exercise of his termination rights on similar contractual grounds.”

McCartney’s attorneys are suing for assurances that Sony/ATV will not take legal action against him, regardless of the outcome of the Duran Duran case. 

Sony/ATV, for its part, balked at the suit.

A spokeswoman for Sony/ATV said, in a statement, “Sony/ATV has the highest respect for Sir Paul McCartney with whom we have enjoyed a long and mutually rewarding relationship with respect to the treasured Lennon & McCartney song catalog,” a company spokesman said in a statement. “We are disappointed that they have filed this lawsuit which we believe is both unnecessary and premature.”

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