Sir Paul McCartney and Sony/ATV have reached a deal in their duel over The Beatles song rights, settling a case that had the potential to rock the music industry to its core.
McCartney sued in January, asking the court for a declaration that he could soon reclaim his copyright ownership share to the iconic group's catalog of songs. The Copyright Act of 1976 lengthened the term of copyright protection, but it also created for owners of works who signed over their rights on or before Jan. 1, 1978, the non-waivable right to reclaim them after a certain period of time. The provision McCartney relied on here states specifically: "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."
For Sir Paul, that date was Oct. 5, 2018. Despite not receiving any pushback from Sony/ATV after sending termination notices, the artist was on alert because one of the company's affiliates successfully opposed Duran Duran's efforts to regain rights. In December, an English court ruled that the interpretation of contracts under English law trumps American termination law and the band's agreement transferred the "entire copyrights" for the "full term" of the copyrights and "implicitly precludes the Group Members from exercising rights under U.S. law which have the result that the Claimant's ownership of the copyrights is brought to an end prior to their expiry."
Now that McCartney and Sony/ATV have resolved this issue themselves, copyright watchers won't have the satisfaction of knowing how a stateside court would rule in this case.
"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," writes McCartney attorney Michael Jacobs in a Thursday letter to U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos.
The details of the deal are unclear, but the order specifies that the New York federal court will "enforce the terms of the parties’ Settlement Agreement, should a dispute arise."
Attorneys for both parties declined further comment on the settlement.