Sony Buys Michael Jackson’s Share of Beatles Copyrights + More

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beatles promo pic (crop)The Sony Corporation has announced its acquisition of the half of the Sony/ATV Music publishing partnership owned by the Estate of Michael Jackson for a reported $750 million. Among the many song catalogs owned by the publishing company are most of the John Lennon/Paul McCartney Beatles songs.

John and Paul were originally co-owners of the copyrights to their Beatles compositions (and those of George Harrison and Ringo Starr) via Northern Songs along with their manager Brian Epstein and music publisher Dick James. In 1965 the company went public for tax reasons. and the two Beatles had less direct ownership and control of their song rights. After Epstein died in ’67, Northern Songs was acquired by England’s Associated Television (ATV).

Years later McCartney advised Jackson to invest in song copyrights, having done well himself with acquisitions like the songs of his musical hero Buddy Holly. Jackson wound up buying ATV Music Publishing in 1985 (which many feel led to McCartney and Jackson falling out of friendship). Ten years later ATV merged with Sony Music Publishing, with Jackson owning half of the venture.

Sony/ATV controls such other well-known songs as “New York, New York,” “Hallelujah.” “You’ve Got a Friend,” “Moon River,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “The Mission Impossible Theme,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Over the Rainbow,” “Stand By Me,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and “Singin’ in the Rain.” The company also represents the copyrights of such legendary artists as Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Queen, The Rolling Stones, Sting, Hank Williams and Stevie Wonder.

Billboard magazine recently speculated that the Jackson estate buyout by Sony will lead to a move by McCartney to finally acquire the Beatles copyrights. He has already begun filing paperwork to regain the publishing rights in the U.S. under terms that allow song copyrights to revert in time to their writers. The Beatles songs begin to become free for reversion in 2018.

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