Paul McCartney and Sony have agreed to a settlement in their long-standing legal dispute over copyright to The Beatles back catalog as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. McCartney and has lawyers argued that under the terms established in the Copyright Act of 1976, he would be able to reclaim sole copyright ownership over his recorded output before January 1st 1978. Specifically, the lawyers for the famous Beatles bassist cited a provision that states: “Termination of the grant may be effected at any time during a period of five years beginning at the end of 56 years from the date copyright was originally secured, or beginning on Jan. 1, 1978, whichever is later.” That date, which falls 56 years from the time of the original copyright will be October 5, 2018.
According to McCartney attorney Michael Jacobs in a letter to U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos, “The parties have resolved this matter by entering into a confidential settlement agreement and jointly request that the Court enter the enclosed proposed order dismissing the above-referenced action without prejudice.” Without prejudice is a key legal phrasing in the decision, meaning it is not the final word on the matter – or in other words, McCartney is able to refile the suit. The settlement details are still unclear other than the order specifying that the federal court in New York enforce the terms of the agreement if a dispute should arise.
The Copyright Act of 1976 allows for a copyright owner to reclaim their ownership of the material after a certain length of time. However, both sides have agreed to a settlement which will end the protracted legal battle. Initially, Sony/ATV did not protest after the termination notices were sent, though McCartney’s legal team was on high alert because the label had previously, and successfully, opposed Duran Duran’s attempt at regaining the rights to their back catalog. In that case last year an English court ruled that English copyright law trumps the United States’ copyright law and that the original copyrights for Duran Duran’s material still remains in the hands of Sony.
Many observers were hoping for McCartney to win the case which would set the precedent for other artists to reclaim their copyrighted material. However, this settlement has quashed any hope of a court decision, leaving the interpretation of the Copyright Act of 1976 up for debate.
Both parties have declined to comment on the case.