Paul McCartney has started the process of re-acquiring The Beatles’ catalogue, 30 years after Michael Jackson purchased it.
According to the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, songwriters are able to reclaim the publisher’s share of their songs. Songwriters can reclaim their songs after 56 years, as long as the songs were written prior to 1978. In 2018, McCartney can reclaim publishing ownership of the Lennon-McCartney catalogue.
McCartney will be only able to reclaim his half of the catalogue, with restrictions to the U.S.
Surprisingly, McCartney has never acquired the rights to the majority of the music he wrote with The Beatles. Originally, Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager, founded the publishing company Northern Songs who owned The Beatles’ music.
Here’s a timeline that maps out how the possibility of music ownership kept moving further away from McCartney in the past:
1967: Brian Epstein dies. Northern Songs is bought by ATV Music, despite McCartney and Lennon attempting to purchase the company themselves.
1985: Michael Jackson buys ATV Music, betraying McCartney because he knew McCartney wanted to acquire his half of the catalogue.
2009: Yoko Ono agrees to give ATV Music/Sony John Lennon’s half for the life of the copyright.
Finally, in 2018 McCartney will be able to re-acquire his half of The Beatles’ catalogue.