This copyright case involves the ownership interest of copyright over certain musical works which Paul Mc Cartney co-authored with former members of Beatles. The defendants in this case are the publisher company holding the copyright interest in the works which are in the name of Paul Mc Cartney. The plaintiff here is the music composer who composed many music along with John Lennon between 1962 to 1971. After that the copyright was assigned to third parties in lieu of royalties in all countries as far as it is assignable. Between 1962 to 1971 the plaintiffs assigned copyright interests to publishers typically.
The musical works at issue in this litigation were composed during the 1960s and early 1970s. The 1909 U.S. Copyright Act was in effect during that period. The 1909 Copyright Act entitled authors to an initial 28-year copyright term, which they could then renew for an additional 28 years. See Copyright Act of 1909, Section 23. Congress revised the Copyright Act in 1976. Among other provisions, the 1976 Act extended the copyright term for works created before January 1, 1978 by 19 years, for a total of 75 years from the date the copyright was originally secured. The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 further extended the copyright term by another 20 years, for a total of 95 years from the date the copyright was originally secured. See 17 U.S.C. § 304(b). Section 304(c) of the Copyright Act, gives the right to authors like the plaintiff a right to reversion i.e. no -waivable right to terminate the transfer and reclaim the interests therein. Section 304(c) states that the in case of its first or renewal term on January 1978 by the author or his successor is subject to termination at any time after the end of 56 years.
Paul McCartney served and recorded in the U.S. Copyright Office termination notices pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 304(c) to reclaim his copyright interests in his musical compositions. The termination notices served on Defendant Sony/ATV Tunes LLC and its affiliates. Even though the plaintiff served the termination notices there was no response from the defendants. Only the affiliates responded.
Defendants evidently intend to challenge Paul McCartney’s exercise of his termination rights on similar contractual grounds. Defendants’ position is contrary to 17 U.S.C. § 304(c) (5), which states that termination of the grant may be effected notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary. Because the earliest of Paul McCartney’s terminations will take effect in 2018, a judicial declaration is necessary and appropriate at this time so that Paul McCartney can rely on quiet, unclouded title to his rights.
Paul McCartney seeks a declaration that his exercise of his termination rights does not represent a breach of any Publishing Agreement. Paul McCartney also seeks a declaratory judgment that the Publishing Agreements are unlawful and/or unenforceable against Paul McCartney to the extent that they conflict with Paul McCartney’s Termination Notices. A judicial declaration is necessary and appropriate at this time so that Paul McCartney can rely on quiet, unclouded title to his rights.