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Beatles company disputes rival copyright claim for Shea Stadium footage

By | Published on Friday 21 October 2016

The Beatles

Lawyers for The Beatles have filed legal papers in a bid to dismiss what they call the “frivolous” claim that Sid Bernstein Presents owns the copyright in footage of the Fab Four’s famous concert at the Shea Stadium in New York in 1965.

As previously reported, the company of late concert promoter Bernstein, who promoted the 1965 show, recently launched legal proceedings over the new documentary film ‘The Beatles: Eight Days A Week’, which included about thirty minutes of footage of the Shea Stadium gig. The Bernstein company claims it owns the copyright in that footage.

The original film of the concert was actually made by Ed Sullivan’s Sullivan Productions and Brian Epstein’s NEMS Enterprises, and those entities were always of the opinion that they were the copyright owners. Beatles-owned companies Apple Corp and Subafilms then seemingly acquired the rights off Sullivan and NEMS.

Sid Bernstein Presents now argues that it was always the rightful owner of the copyright in the film because Bernstein himself instigated and paid for the show to take place. The other companies involved in the filming, therefore, were never rights owners and were never in a position to assign any rights to Apple Corps or Subafilms.

In its legal response, Apple Corps disputes the Bernstein company’s claim to owning any copyright in the Shea Stadium footage, insisting that, in fact, at the time of its original production NEMS Enterprises had the “sole and exclusive right” to the film. Bernstein just “observed the filming and recording”, the legal filing adds, and was not actively involved in the film side of the production. Apple Corps lawyers then point out that Bernstein himself never made any claim to the copyright in the film before his death in 2013.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the attorneys write that the plaintiffs themselves concede that “Bernstein, throughout the nearly 50 years after the Shea Stadium concert until his death in 2013, never asserted any claim of authorship or copyright ownership in the film of the concert – which first aired nationally in 1967 – despite the consistent, notorious, and exclusive claims of ownership by NEMS, Apple and Subafilms, all of which excluded Bernstein from any receipts from their various exploitations of the film”.

It remains to be seen how the judge responds to Apple Corps’ bid for dismissal.