A few days ago, major headlines were made when the estate of “The King of Pop” Michael Jackson revealed that it was selling its 50% stake of Sony/ATV Music Publishing to the tune of $750 million dollars. The sale finally gives Sony complete control over the catalog of music that includes both the rights to Jackson's music as well as the music of the the Beatles. One of the first questions that sprung to many people's minds following the sale was how Sir Paul McCartney might respond, and it seems we have our answer.
McCartney's lawyers have already filed paperwork to try and get back the rights to the songs the the singer had penned with John Lennon throughout the 1960s. According to Billboard who really broke the process down, “The U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 gave songwriters the ability to recapture the publishers’ share of their songs, and in the case of titles written before 1978, writers can recapture songs after two consecutive 28-year terms, or 56 years.”
Now, in order to recapture those rights, McCartney first had to file a termination of publishing notice with the U.S. Copyright Office two to ten years before that 56-year mark, which Billboard confirmed that he indeed recently did. The first of the many songs from the Lennon/McCartney catalog begin to hit that 56-year mark in 2018, with the rest following suit at regular intervals thereafter. In spite of this process, if McCartney were indeed successful in re-obtaining these rights, it should be noted that this would only apply to United States and Sony would still have the full ability to hold all royalties obtained from pretty much everywhere else in the world.
McCartney and Lennon both had a chance to purchase the sizeable catalog of their own hits originally back in 1969 but missed out. McCartney had another stab at it five years after his partner's death in 1985, but was outbid by Jackson who ponied up $47.5 million for the rights at a public auction. McCartney viewed the purchase as a massive betrayal and the two pop icons were estranged forever afterwards.