When Paul McCartney missed out on the Beatles’ music publishing rights, this made quite the headlines a few decades ago. Back then McCartney was pretty much blindsided after learning the publishing rights to his music had been sold. McCartney was deeply hurt, along with being peeved, when he found out who purchased those publishing rights.
Sometime during the early1980s, Paul McCartney schooled his good friend Michael Jackson on the lucrative world of music publishing rights. This was a lesson Jackson apparently took to heart because back in 1985 he made one heck of a big purchase in published music. It was when Michael Jackson got wind of the Beatles’ music publishing rights going up for sale and he plopped down $47 million and reeled it in.
Many people thought Michael Jackson was frankly quite nuts at the time for purchasing the publishing rights to the Beatles’ songs for that much money. That is except for one person, who took this purchase as a betrayal, a betrayal that he never got over. That was Paul McCartney.
McCartney had his eye on the publishing rights to the Beatles songs most of his adult life. He and Lennon wrote many of the Beatles’ songs. As MSN News reports on March 22 the Michael Jackson purchase wasn’t the first time Paul saw the publishing rights to the music slip right out of his hands.
“McCartney had long coveted his Beatles catalog — he and Lennon lost out to ATV in a 1969 attempt to purchase Northern Songs, their original publisher.” Then the next time he lost out to Jackson and as MSN reports, “he never forgave Jackson for what he considered a betrayal of their friendship.”
Today Michael Jackson’s estate is selling its 50 percent share of Sony/ATV Music Publishing to Sony for $750 million, which is an astronomical return for the late singer’s investment. So just how nuts was he?
When McCartney’s fans heard about the sale many wondered if Paul would finally get his chance to reclaim his music. Before that question was even asked McCartney was on it! This is where it gets confusing, but publishing rights are time sensitive and after half a century has gone by, McCartney has some legal rights, which are best explained by MSN News:
“The U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 gave songwriters the ability to recapture the publishers’ share of their songs, and in the case of titles written before 1978, writers can recapture songs after two consecutive 28-year terms, or 56 years. (That legislation allows for writers of songs issued in or after 1978 to recapture their publishing after 35 years.)”
News Max reports today that in 2018, the Lennon-McCartney catalog of music begins to hit that mark of 56 years. If nothing else, this is bound to make the baby boomers feel old knowing that some of their favorite Beatles’ music is over half a century old!
MSN continues explaining, “In order to reclaim publishing ownership of a song, a songwriter must file with the U.S. Copyright Office, terminating the publishing anywhere from 2 to 10 years before the 56 years elapse, in order to obtain ownership of that song’s publishing in a timely manner. (If the writer doesn’t put in a notice within that window, they have another five-year period to reclaim the copyrights but each day’s delay adds another day that the publisher owns the copyright.)”
It has been confirmed that McCartney has already filed a termination notice for 32 of their songs. The source said that he filed for the songs that came out from 1962-1964. Since the Beatles’ music career spanned a few decades, songs will continue to come to full term under the 1976 Copyright Act. Since many of the songs were written with Lennon, he will be able to own half of the publishing rights with Sony. Yoko Ono was said to have made a deal about the publishing rights from Lennon’s estate with Sony years back.