Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson used to be friends. They made music together, they had fun together. Then MJ, eccentric millionaire and brilliant businessman, bought ATV Music, the publisher of the Beatles’ Lennon-McCartney songs, for $47.5 million in 1985. McCartney considered it a betrayal of their friendship (he and Lennon had lost out to ATV in a 1969 attempt to purchase Northern Songs, their first publisher, which still bothered him). Now that Sony is buying out Jackson’s half of Sony/ATV for $750 million, McCartney is trying to get his songs back to where they once belonged.
As Billboard reports, the Lennon-McCartney catalog turns 56 in 2018, and, according to the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, songwriters have the ability to recapture their publishers’ share of songs written before 1978 after two consecutive 28-year terms. 28 + 28 = 56. So in 2018, the Lennon-McCartney catalog becomes 56. McCartney can only get his compositions, which is tricky, since he and Lennon shared songwriting credit for almost everything. Not all of McCartney’s songs will become available in 2018: many, including the masterful medley that closes out Abbey Road, won’t turn 56 until 2025. (“Get Back,” the song from which the clever title of this post was derived, becomes available on April 18, 2025.)