copyright questionDear Doc:
I’m an aspiring musician. I write the songs that make the whole world sing. Lately, it seems that I’m having to work much harder to become an overnight success. After all, I write the songs that make the young girls cry. Can you help?

Dear Mandy:

Woof!  Wooof, grrrr. Woof! (But I digress…)

It is very hard to become an overnight sensation in the music “biz”, but keep at it! Under the U.S. Copyright Law you, like Sir Paul McCartney, may be able to reclaim your early works from music publishing companies after just 56 years. Sir Paul is doing that, or, at any rate, half of that, right now. You see, he wrote almost all of his Beatles’ hits with John Lennon, and they were owned by Northern Songs, the publishing company set up by the late Brian Epstein. Epstein died in 1967, and Northern was sold to ATV Music. In 1985, Michael Jackson bought ATV. In 1995, ATV merged with Sony, taking half of Jackson’s ownership. In 2009, Yoko Ono sold Lennon’s half to Sony. Last month, Sony bought the other half from Jackson’s estate. Simple, huh?

But under the Copyright Law (17 USC § 304(C )), a songwriter may file a notice terminating transfers of publishing rights anywhere from two to ten years prior to the 56 year reclaiming period. On December 15, 2015, Sir Paul did that for 32 of the original Lennon-McCartney/Northern/ATV/Jackon/Sony songs.

So, Mandy, if all goes well, then soon, and for the first time, Sir Paul will actually own the rights to the songs he wrote – at least the very early ones. As for the later ones? You might say that he came, and he gave without taking, and will have to wait a while longer to file more notices in the Copyright Office.

Have a question about intellectual property? Want to talk to someone not named “Rico” about it? Ask the attorneys at LW&H. They help creative types, and as I am sure that they’ll tell you, you get what you get when you go for it.  Until next month…

The “Doc”

–Lawrence A. Husick, Esquire