In what is hotting up to be one of the most significant music industry legal battles in recent memory, Sir Paul McCartney has filed a lawsuit against Sony ATV hoping to regain his copyright share of hundreds of songs he co-wrote as a member of The Beatles.

McCartney, 74, filed the suit in a federal court in New York on Wednesday (January 18th), and he is seeking a declaratory judgment that he will soon start to regain the ownership rights of more than 200 tracks he co-wrote with John Lennon between 1962 and 1971, starting from 2018.

Paul McCartneyPaul McCartney is suing Sony over publishing rights to The Beatles' songs

Originally, both McCartney and Lennon lost out to ATV, which bought out their original publishers Northern Songs back in 1969. Michael Jackson then famously outbid McCartney back in 1985 for ATV’s back catalogue, which includes more than 200 Beatles tracks, before they were sold back to Sony by Jackson’s estate in September 2016.

He is hoping to finally regain control of the publishing rights to the songs (i.e. the right to receive royalties) under the US Copyright Act of 1976, which allows songs written before 1978 to return to the ownership of its author after a period of 56 years.

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McCartney, represented by attorneys at Morrison & Foerster, is seeking this clarification because Sony ATV has so far remained silent on whether they intend to automatically revert McCartney’s rights back to him when the period of 56 years is up for the first of the tracks concerned – the Fab Four’s 1962 debut single ‘Love Me Do’ in late 2018.

“For years following service of the first Termination Notices, Defendants gave no indication to Paul McCartney that they contested the efficacy of Paul McCartney’s Termination Notices,” states the lawsuit, according to Billboard. “Defendants’ affiliates did, however, oppose at least one other artist’s terminations of transfers under the terms of the 1976 Copyright Act.”

This refers to the shocking legal defeat for Duran Duran late last year, when an English court ruled that it had superior jurisdiction over American copyright law and that the band’s 35-year old hits (the law is different for tracks after 1978…) wouldn’t revert back to them.

By filing this lawsuit in New York now, McCartney is clearly hoping to have an American court rule in his case.

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