Sir Paul McCartney is suing Sony to seek confirmation that he is entitled to a reversion of his copyrights when his statutory reversion right to each song matures under the US 1976 Copyright Act.
In the recent similar Duran Duran case the Judge in the UK proceedings reluctantly ruled that the US right of a song writer to call for reversion of his copyrights did not apply. That was because Duran Duran had signed a Publishing agreement in the UK which granted the Publisher the copyright in the songs for the life of copyright. Duran Duran had effectively ‘waived’ their right to ever argue for a US reversion by signing this contract when they were teenagers.
Sir Paul may have signed a similar agreement with the Beatles’ original Publisher, Northern Songs (subsequently succeeded in title by ATV, Michael Jackson and then Sony). Certainly Sony will be hoping that a similar argument applies. There may be one crucial difference with the Duran Duran case, which is that Sir Paul McCartney has filed his suit in the US rather than the UK. The right to copyright reversion is enshrined in US law and was passed by Congress specifically to prevent young writers from naively signing their copyrights away forever. It is more difficult to see a US court accepting that a UK Publishing agreement signed more than 50 years ago should frustrate the intentions of a US Statute….no doubt it will be a Long and Winding Road, but Sir Paul may get there in the end….’
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