Michael Jackson and the Beatles catalog

All the coverage yesterday got me thinking about this.
Apparently the Beatles catalog was one of the most, if not the most, valuable assets he had.
But I was wondering, did he still have to pay any royalties to either of the surviving Beatles when one of their songs was licensed? Howabout if Paul McCartney played one of the old Beatles songs at a concert, did he have to pay Michael Jackson for the use of it? Or what if Paul or Ringo or the estates of John or George objected to a song being licensed to a certain entity (like for a commercial product or organization they didn’t endorse), could they stop it from being used?

A lot of that’s covered in http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1211/does-michael-jackson-control-the-beatles-music-library

Although I don’t know if his ownership status changed between 1995 and… umm… yesterday.

Which makes me wonder who Harmonix had to deal with besides the Beatles Collective to get Rock Band: The Beatles out.

Looks like he sold them to Sony within days of that column being published.

A few months ago, Jackson stated he planned on giving the rights to Paul McCartney when he died.

He only sold half the rights to Sony. The Beatles Rock Band features songs published by that joint venture- Sony/ATV Music Publishing- as well as songs published by Harrisongs Music.

In the USA (though the laws vary elsewhere) you can’t stop someone from performing your song. But you do have to pay them for the use of it. For example “Weird Al” Yankovic says he always gets the permission of the artist he parodies as a courtesy. As long as he pays the artist royalties they can’t stop them.

In practice someone who objects to a certain artist can in practical terms stop it.

For instance, let’s say General Motors wants to use a Beatles song. They pay royalties they can use it. However Ringo Starr can say “Gee I wish GM didn’t use my song, they SUCK. They’re awful.”

As for use in charities and such, it’s usually not advisable to use a song that the artist is opposed to as the charity still has to pay for the use of the song. Can you imagine if the charity used a Beatle song and Paul McCartney said “I don’t think that’s a worthwhile cause, I’m sure glad they’re paying me royalites on it.” Who’d donate to that cause?

Obviously a company trying to advertise a product doesn’t want the singer of the song to say “they suck.” It’s not a smart marketing ploy. In the US, the Supreme Court has ruled that one’s opinion is just that, an opinion and a person can say that without fear of being sued and convicted. (In the US anyone can sue anyone)

There are other ways to prevent this. For instance, I have heard of some artists that have in their contracts that they must approve remakes by artists in the same company. Like a song by “Singer X” who is on the Sony lable can veto any other Sony artist from making his song. But that’s a private agreement.

A good example of this involves the Beatles and Jackson: in 1987, Nike licensed the original recording of Revolution #9 for a television spot under license from Capitol Records and Jackson, which offended many.

Nitpick: you mean Revolution, not Revolution 9. The latter would not make for a very good sneaker commercial.

ETA: Alternately, it might make for the most awesome sneaker commercial in history. One or the other.

:stuck_out_tongue: This image just made me laugh! Sneakers crashing into each other like cars, Yoko Ono moaning “I am naked…except for my Nikes!”…

This is one reason why lame covers of well-known songs (used to?) turn up so frequently in commercials. This practice seems to have become less common within just the past few years, perhaps because more artists are willing to license their original recordings. But I remember I used to sometimes think “I can’t believe [band] didn’t do anything to stop this pathetic cover of their big hit being used in a stupid commercial!”, before I learned that as long as the royalties were paid then the admakers had the right to record a new version of the song whether the original artist liked it or not.

Isn’t it generally cheaper anyway to get the rights to a song and do a new version rather than license both the song and the recording?

An article about the uncertain future of the Beatles catalog due to Jackson’s death.

An excellent example is at Epcot Center. One of the attractions (maybe Kodak?) uses the song “True Colors” by Cindy Lauper, but most definitely, she does not sing it. And it is a horrible rendition. I imagine that playing that song as many times a day as they do, that not having Cindy sing it saves them metric buttloads of money each year.

I believe that if you cover a song in such an exact way that it seems to be a carbon copy of the original, the original band has some rights in the matter.

The Romantics sued after one of the Guitar Hero games featuring a re-recorded version of What I Like About You that sounded exactly like the original, but I think they lost.

It certainly was for Styx and for A&M Records. Styx had recorded the song “Lady” for Wooden Nickel Records in 1972, but it failed to chart. When Styx left for A&M in 1974, Wooden Nickel re-released “Lady” and it rode the coattails of Styx’s success with A&M. When A&M intended to release Styx Greatest Hits in 1995, they attempted to negotiate a fee with Wooden Nickel for their recording of “Lady.” They were unable to come to an agreement for licensing the recording, so Styx went into the studio and recorded a cover version of their own song titled “Lady '95” for their greatest hits album.

I don’t know if you remember, but Kodak used the song in commercials for years. They may not need to pay per performance but instead can pay a fixed fee for use in the commercial campaign. I worked for a dotcom between 1999-2001 that licensed the Beatles’s song Help! for use in a commercial. I believe we paid a one-time fee of $3million, although the recording was by someone other than the Beatles.