Paul McCartney

McCartney's Copyright Gripe Based on Technicality

Paul McCartney — my heart goes out to him. So much tragedy. So much talent. So many press releases.

There isn't a day that goes by without more news from M. Macca. And it's all tied to some new CD or video being released. I can't keep track anymore.

Now he's told The Associated Press that he was mad about Yoko Ono getting more money from "Yesterday" than he did, and that he wanted her to change the byline from Lennon-McCartney to McCartney.

I know he did. This reporter broke the story three years ago that the Beatles' anthology album releases were being slowed by McCartney's fighting with Ono over the long-ago established songwriting credits.

But let me tell you why, as I first reported in 1990, McCartney's gotten into such a fix.

The copyright law of 1927 specifically laid out that if a writer sold the rights to his records during his lifetime, but subsequently died, his heirs would automatically get back those rights when the copyright period expired.

The length of a copyright term is 28 years.

And this is the way music publishing works: The writer or writers get half, and the publisher gets half. When all the Lennon-McCartney songs were sold to Michael Jackson, the writers would have gotten half, and Michael would have gotten half. Technically, Michael was getting a quarter from Paul, and a quarter from John.

But because Lennon died, his heirs got back his quarter. Jackson lost that piece of the pie. So suddenly, beginning in 1990 when the original 1962 copyrights of the Beatles' songs started to expire, Yoko and Sean Lennon began receiving more than McCartney on all Lennon-McCartney songs. By 1998 the last of the Lennon-McCartney copyrights expired ("Let It Be"; "Long and Winding Road"). And then Paul McCartney had to sit back and watch Yoko, long his dreaded enemy, collect nearly twice as much money on his songs.

Of course, on the upside, Paul is alive. The only reason this exists is because John Lennon is dead. It's a small point, but one that should be made.

Usually I don't agree with Yoko Ono's way of thinking, but in this case I think she was correct. Lennon and McCartney were a 50/50 partnership for better or worse. There were plenty of songs written by Lennon without McCartney's input, such as "Give Peace a Chance," but Macca continues to collect his portion.

My advice to Paul: enough already. Give peace a chance. Listen to what the man — that is, John Lennon — said.