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Sony/ATV demands Beatles doc lawsuit be dismissed following UK copyright ruling

By | Published on Friday 7 August 2015


Music publisher Sony/ATV and Beatles company Apple Corps have both asked a New York federal court to dismiss litigation relating to a dispute over a documentary about the fab four. The producer of said documentary wants its lawsuit to be ‘administratively closed’, so taken off the agenda for now, but with the option to resume proceedings later.

As previously reported, in 2013 a company called Ace Arts went legal against the Sony publisher and Apple Corps over a documentary it was making featuring footage of The Beatles’ first ever US concert in Washington in 1964.

Ace Arts claimed that Sony/ATV had originally agreed to licence the publishing rights it controls in the various Beatles songs that appear in the concert recording, but later bailed on that agreement citing a clause stating that it was always subject to Apple Corps approval. The claimants alleged that the change of heart was because Sony/ATV and Apple Corps had decided to collaborate on a similar project about the Washington gig, and that that breached American competition laws.

Ace Arts originally filed a complaint in California, though then moved its lawsuit to New York. But Sony/ATV, aside from disputing most of the film firm’s claims, pointed out the same dispute was working its way through the UK courts – in the guise of a copyright infringement lawsuit – and that therefore the separate US proceedings were unnecessary, even if the latter were more competition than copyright law based.

The judge hearing the New York case originally refused to dismiss Ace Art’s US litigation, but then last month the UK case reached the high court and judges there ruled in favour of Sony/ATV and Apple Corps, to the effect that any provisional agreement between the Sony publisher and Ace Arts was not binding and that the latter’s use of Beatles songs in their documentary was therefore copyright infringement. Claims by the filmmakers that they were covered by US fair use rules were also rejected.

With that in mind Sony/ATV and Apple Corps now want the pending US case thrown our, arguing that the matter has been resolved in the UK. For their part Ace Arts says that it has the right to appeal over here, so the New York litigation should only be postponed while it goes through the motions under English law. And for its part, Sony/ATV says that’s irrelevant and the New York case should be axed pronto.

So fun, fun, fun.