Paul McCartney resolves dispute on Beatles song rights

Rights to some of the Beatles' earliest hits were soon due to be released back to the songwriters under a US law which has been contested in Britain (AFP Photo/KEVIN WINTER) (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File)

New York (AFP) - Paul McCartney has reached a settlement over copyright to the Beatles catalog, avoiding a legal battle that could have had wide ramifications for the music business.

McCartney filed a lawsuit in January in a US court to secure rights from Sony ATV Music Publishing in the wake of a British judicial ruling that shook up the industry.

Michael Jacobs, a lawyer for McCartney, late last week informed a judge that the two sides "have resolved this matter by entering into a confidential settlement agreement."

Jacobs asked Edgardo Ramos, a federal judge in New York, to dismiss the lawsuit. Representatives declined further comment.

The case revolves around the US Copyright Act of 1976 which aimed to strengthen the hand of songwriters -- whose relationship with music publishers, who hold rights and distribute royalties, has been notoriously rocky.

Under the act, songwriters could reclaim copyright from music publishers 35 years after they gave them away -- or 56 years for songs from before 1978.

While US law is often seen as the gold standard in the entertainment industry, a British court took a different approach in December.

It refused to grant rights to 1980s pop sensations Duran Duran -- known for hits such as "Rio" and the James Bond theme "A View to a Kill" -- on the grounds that US law did not apply in Britain.

In his lawsuit, McCartney's lawyer said that a Sony ATV executive approached him at a concert as the Duran Duran case went forward and warned that the publisher would fight harder for the Beatles catalog.

McCartney had vowed in the lawsuit to secure control of the catalog -- an issue of growing urgency as the first Beatles single, "Love Me Do," came out in 1962, meeting the 56-year timeframe under the US act in 2018.

Sony ATV has rights to millions of songs including by other top names in music history such as Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and Bob Dylan.

Sony ATV was initially a joint venture between Jackson and Japan's Sony Corp., which bought out the late King of Pop's 50 percent stake from his estate last year for $750 million.

Ironically, Jackson bought rights to Beatles songs after a leisurely chat with McCartney on the importance of music publishing -- a sore point later for the ex-Beatle.