By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Apple Corps, the company founded by members of The Beatles, on Wednesday won the dismissal of a lawsuit seeking the rights to the master tapes of the band’s celebrated 1965 concert at New York’s Shea Stadium.
U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan said Sid Bernstein Presents LLC, named for the concert’s promoter, failed to show it deserved sole control over the Aug. 15, 1965, footage and deserved damages reflecting its many subsequent uses.
Daniels said the company, which said it had been assigned Bernstein’s rights, could not claim to be the “author” of a copyrightable work even if Bernstein were the driving force behind the sold-out concert because he did not film it.
“The relevant legal question is not the extent to which Bernstein contributed to or financed the 1965 concert; rather, it is the extent to which he ‘provided the impetus for’ and invested in a copyrightable work – e.g., the concert film,” Daniels wrote. “The complaint and relevant contracts clearly refute any such claim by Bernstein.”
Donald Curry, a lawyer for Sid Bernstein Presents, said in an interview his client would review the decision, and that “based on a preliminary review, I believe there are grounds to appeal.”
Lawyers for Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Apple is based in London and has been controlled by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono, and the estate of George Harrison.
Sid Bernstein Presents had filed its lawsuit last September, claiming that Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein had taken custody of the master tapes without permission.
It said footage was later used in many documentaries such as “The Beatles at Shea Stadium” in 1966, “The Beatles Anthology” in 1995, “The Last Play at Shea” in 2010 about Billy Joel’s final concerts there, and the Ron Howard-directed “Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years” in 2016.
Sid Bernstein was a promoter and producer for many other recording artists including Tony Bennett, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Herman’s Hermits and The Rolling Stones. He died in 1993 at the age of 95.
The case is Sid Bernstein Presents LLC v Apple Corps Ltd et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-07084.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York)