In early 1984 the songs and albums written, recorded and released by The Beatles were put up for sale by ATV Music. At the time, the band did not know too much about copyright, so could not do anything to stop their songs from being taken away. At the time, Paul McCartney and John Lennon‘s widow, Yoko Ono, decided against purchasing the rights to the band’s songs.
In 1985 Michael Jackson bought the rights to these songs for approximately $47.5 million (approximately £36.7 million).
This meant that he took the rights for songs such as Hey Jude, Let It Be and Yesterday.
Speaking about the unexpected turn of events in the 1980s, McCartney recalled what happened while he was on The Graham Norton Show in 2014.
He told the talk show host: “[We lost] the early Beatles stuff. It was a carve-up.”
McCartney continued: “We didn’t know anything about any of that [music management], so we got ripped off. But hey, what the heck?”
Norton asked about Jackson buying up the songs, before adding: “So that was your fault?”
To which McCartney replied: “Yeah, it was a strange one yeah. I was working with Michael at that time, he rang me up over Christmas. [He said:] ‘Hi it’s Michael, do you want to make some hits?'”
When the pair got together, the singer was happy to give the young star some advice.
The Beatle said he was laughing about the comment “until he did [buy them]”.
However, it all ended well, as Sony later acquired 50 percent of Jackson’s collection in 1995 when they changed the company’s name to Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
Sony continued to purchase songs from the singer over the years, meaning the company eventually acquired all of the songs from Michael.
After his death on June 25, 2009, all of the remaining songs went to Sony.
In 2016, however, McCartney launched a legal suit to recover his half of the Lennon-McCartney catalogue.
This came about after copyright laws in the USA changed allowing authors of music to reclaim the rights to their music published before 1978.
Eventually, McCartney was successful, bringing the rights back to him once and for all.