Sir Paul McCartney has gone to a U.S. court in a bid to regain publishing rights to 267 classic Beatles songs from Sony, in a case that could have huge ramifications for other British artists.
McCartney has been trying to claim back ownership of the songs he wrote with John Lennon since Michael Jackson outbid him in the 1980s, including “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be”.
Jackson bought shares in Sony/ATV, which were sold back to the company by his estate as a bundle for $750m (£610m) – including many of The Beatles tracks.
The BBC reports the songwriter’s case, which was filed on Wednesday, is over what is known as copyright termination – part of the US 1976 Copyright Act.
This gives authors the right to reclaim ownership of their work from music publications after a certain amount of time has passed. It allowed artists including Prince, Billy Joel, and Blondie to regain control of their work.
However, an attempt by Duran Duran to make a similar case failed in 2016.
Simon Le Bon and other members of the group argued that U.S. copyright laws gave them the right to call for a reversion of copyright after 35 years.
Lawyers for Gloucester Place Music Ltd successfully countered that English laws of contract prevented them from doing so.
Legal papers filed on McCartney’s behalf say that he is concerned that Sony/ATV will use Duran Duran’s loss to challenge his own attempt.
They state that the former Beatle wants “quiet, unclouded title to his rights”.
Rolling Stone reports that Sony/ATV has said it is “disappointed” by the lawsuit and called it “unnecessary and premature”.
“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 John Lennon and McCartney song catalogue,” Sony/ATV said.
“We have collaborated closely with both Sir Paul and the late John Lennon’s Estate for decades to protect, preserve and promote the catalog’s long-term value. We are disappointed that they have filed this lawsuit which we believe is both unnecessary and premature.”