A federal case filed in September pits The Beatles’ Apple Corps LTD against The Beatles’ late promoter over the copyright ownership of concert footage from the band’s famous performance at Shea Stadium in 1965.
Sid Bernstein Presents (SBP), a holding company that owns the intellectual property of the late Sid Bernstein, filed suit in the Southern District of New York on September 11 against Apple and its Subafilms Limited company (Subafilms). SBP claims that it retains the copyright to concert footage used in director Ron Howard’s recently released documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years. It seeks an injunction to prevent the footage from being shown, distributed, and reproduced.
SBP argues that that it owns the copyright because Bernstein, the music promoter who is credited for bringing The Beatles to the United States, produced the show. The suit claims that Bernstein was the “dominant, and hence sole, author of the copyrightable work.” Apple filed a motion to dismiss on October 19, calling SPB’s claims frivolous. Apple’s lawyers argued that a contract between Bernstein and NEMS Enterprises, the company formed by late Beatles manager Brian Epstein, granted NEMS the sole right to the footage, and that Apple later acquired the rights from a deal between NEMS and Ed Sullivan’s Sullivan Productions.
Jon Bilstein, “Beatles’ Companies Sued Over Shea Stadium Concert Footage,” Rolling Stone (September 14, 2016), http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/beatles-companies-sued-over-shea-stadium-concert-footage-w439681
Bill Donahue, “Beatles Co. Calls Concert Lawsuit ‘Utterly Frivolous’,” Law360 (October 20, 2016), http://www.law360.com/articles/853585/beatles-co-calls-concert-lawsuit-utterly-frivolous
Bill Donahue, “Producer’s Estate Sues Over Beatles Concert Footage,” Law360 (September 12, 2016), http://www.law360.com/articles/839053/producer-s-estate-sues-over-beatles-concert-footage
“Lawyers for Beatles’ Apple Corp Move to Have Lawsuit over Shea Stadium Footage Dismissed,” WJBD Radio (October 20, 2016), http://www.wjbdradio.com/music-news/2016/10/20/lawyers-for-beatles-apple-corp-move-to-have-lawsuit-over-shea-stadium-footage-dismissed
Sid Bernstein Presents, LLC v. Apple Corps Limited et al., case number 1:16-cv-07084 (S.D.N.Y)
Jonathan Stempel, “Apple Corps is sued over Beatles’ 1965 Shea Stadium film rights,” Reuters (September 12, 2016), http://www.reuters.com/article/us-beatles-lawsuit-idUSKCN11I2LE