In the early ‘80s, Paul McCartney pointed out to Michael Jackson the value of music publishing. Jackson soon received a tip that ATV Music, publisher of the Beatles’ Lennon-McCartney songs, was available. In 1985, Jackson bought the catalogue for $47.5 million in 1985. Word is McCartney never forgave Jackson for what he considered a betrayal of their friendship.
Earlier this month, news came out the Michael Jackson estate would sell its 50% share of Sony/ATV Music Publishing to Sony in a $750 million deal. Many wondered whether Paul McCartney would finally be able to acquire the rights to his share of the company’s crown jewel, the Lennon-McCartney catalog. It’s a chance McCartney is not going to let slip past him again.
Billboard breaks down the details of how Paul McCartney can take back ownership of the songs he and Lennon penned in the ’60s through 1970.
The U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 gave songwriters the ability to recapture the publishers’ share of their songs. In the case of titles written before 1978, writers can recapture songs after two consecutive 28-year terms, or 56 years. That legislation allows for writers of songs issued in or after 1978 to recapture their publishing after 35 years.
Years ago, McCartney complained at having to pay Michael royalties every time he wanted to perform a Beatles song: ‘The annoying thing is I have to pay to play some of my own songs. Each time I want to sing Hey Jude I have to pay.’
While it is unknown how much the back catalogue would be worth today, in 2005, Sony paid Michael $95 million for 50 per cent of the rights.