From The Washington Post:
Well into his eighth decade, Paul McCartney has a lot to be thankful for. Though he recently was denied entry to Tyga’s post-Grammys party, he is a living legend: one of two surviving Beatles and the co-writer of much of the band’s material. Yet, one prize remains beyond McCartney’s grasp. He lost his publishing rights to the Beatles’ catalogue decades ago and, despite years of wrangling that included a tiff with Michael Jackson, has been unable to get them back.
Now, McCartney has fired another fusillade in his battle to reclaim his music. As Billboard first reported, records show McCartney, taking advantage of a law that allows singers to reclaim publishing rights after 56 years, filed a “notice of termination” with the U.S. Copyright Office. The songs on the table include many Beatles masterworks, including “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” — and, for the record, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” one of John Lennon’s least-favorite Beatles songs.
Publishing rights are, more or less, the right to “exploit” a song — to, for example, license it to a film, TV show or video game. The vast majority of McCartney’s work with the Beatles was credited to “Lennon-McCartney” — but, as the BBC noted, the singers lost their publishing rights in the 1960s when ATV, a publishing company they created with the other Beatles, their manager and outside investors, was sold without their knowledge.
. . . .
“In order to reclaim publishing ownership of a song, a songwriter must file with the U.S. Copyright Office, terminating the publishing anywhere from 2 to 10 years before the 56 years elapse, in order to obtain ownership of that song’s publishing in a timely manner. (If the writer doesn’t put in a notice within that window, they have another five-year period to reclaim the copyrights but each day’s delay adds another day that the publisher owns the copyright.)”
Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Cora for the tip.
Here’s an article that explains the law in greater detail.