Paul McCartney sues Sony over early Beatles classics

Wants to get back the likes of 'Love Me Do' after Michael Jackson bought them in the '80s...

Paul McCartney has slapped Sony/ATV Music Publishing with a lawsuit, as the 74-year-old looks to reclaim the rights to a raft of Beatles material.

The massively-influential musician has been sending the record giant termination notices since 2008 as he attempts to acquire the publishing on a host of classics he penned as part of the 'Lennon-McCartney' songwriting team during his time in The Beatles as early as 2018. However, while Sony hasn't disputed the notices, it has yet to concede to handing over the rights.

A McCartney spokesperson told EW

“Paul McCartney has today filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York against Sony/ATV to confirm his ownership in his US reversionary copyrights, which are granted to him by US copyright law, in the songs he wrote with John Lennon and recorded with The Beatles."

McCartney famously lost the rights to the late Michael Jackson when the pop star purchased ATV – and its ownership of the likes of 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' – in 1985. Ironically, McCartney had advised the younger artist that investing in music publishing was a worthwhile pursuit when the pair struck up a friendship a few years previous, with Jackson ultimately outbidding McCartney for his own material. Their relationship soured as a result, with McCartney publicly expressing frustration with the situation over the ensuing years. 

In 2005, he seemed to have made his peace with it, declaring that he was not interested in purchasing the catalogue amidst rumours that Jackson was selling up due to his own financial troubles at the time and would wait instead until the rights legally reverted to him.

He told Rolling Stone:

"Bono rang me and said: 'Did you hear? He's selling the songs. You should buy them!' Everyone else thinks I should too. But the thing is, I do get some cash from the publishing already. And in a few years more of the rights will be automatically be reverting to me. 

"The only annoying thing is, when I tour America I have to pay to play some of my own songs. But I don't think about that. Because if I did, it would be just too annoying."

Jackson went on to make a deal with Sony in 1995, with his estate selling its remaining 50% share to Sony/ATV in a $750 million deal last year.

Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson in a still from the 'Say Say Say' video, 1983

McCartney is hoping the US Copyright Act of 1976 can reverse the situation and put much of The Beatles' back catalogue back in his hands. Under that act, songwriters are able to regain the publishers' share - when it comes to songs written before 1978, this option is available after two consecutive 28-year terms.

The early Lennon-McCartney hits will turn 56 next year. It is up to the songwriter to file with the US Copyright Office anywhere from two to 10 years before the 56-year mark, a process which McCartney has diligently followed. Last March 2016, Billboard reported that McCartney had filed termination notices for 32 songs, including the seminal likes of...