You probably know that Michael Jackson bought the rights to The Beatles’ songs. It’s as much as part of the Beatles’ legacy as Paul McCartney dying and being replaced by an impostor. What happens, if you are not familiar, is that, back in the days when McCartney and Jackson were making music together, Jackson bought ATV Music, which owned all the Beatles songs written by the combo of Lennon and McCartney (since John Lennon and Paul McCartney primarily listed themselves as co-writers regardless of who actually wrote the song), for $47.5 million back in 1985. Now, McCartney is hoping to finally get his songs back.
You are likely aware that Michal Jackson is dead, on account of the fact that it was one of the biggest stories in music when it happened. Did you see his funeral? It was nuts. Anyway, Sony is planning on buying out Jackson’s half of Sony/ATV publishing for $750 million, but McCartney is going to try and step in and reclaim his songs.
The Lennon-McCartney catalog is turning 56 in 2018, which is relevant thanks to the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976. In short, a songwriter can recapture their publishers’ share of their songs if the songs were written before 1978 after “two consecutive 28-year terms.” So, basically, in 2018 those two consecutive 28-year terms will have passed, and the songs will be available to McCartney.
Now, McCartney can only get the rights to his compositions, so all the Lennon-McCartney songs will have to be parsed. Fortunately, Beatles fans have been doing this for decades, so that won’t be hard. Also, some of these Beatles songs won’t be available until 2025. Still, after many years, it seems like, in the near future, Paul McCartney may actually own the songs he wrote once again. Unless the ghost of Michael Jackson steps in somehow.