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Dismissal sought for “meritless” Bernstein suit

Lawyers representing Apple Corps and Subafilms are moving to have the copyright dispute over footage of The Beatles at Shea Stadium thrown out

By Jon Chapple on 21 Oct 2016

George Harrison, The Beatles, Shea Stadium, 1966, Apple Corps Ltd

George Harrison at Shea Stadium


image © The Beatles/Apple Corps Ltd/Subafilms Ltd

The Beatles’ lawyers have moved to quash a lawsuit by the estate of promoter Sid Bernstein asserting its ownership of footage from the band’s famed 1965 concert at Shea Stadium in New York, arguing Bernstein had next to no input in filming the show and “never asserted any claim of authorship or copyright ownership in the film of the concert” before his death in 2013.

In a new filing in the Southern District Court of New York, Michael A. Kolcun, of law film Robins Kaplan, calls the suit “frivolous” and “entirely meritless” and says Bernstein “had no control over or input into the filming of the concert or in the production of the resulting film, The Beatles at Shea Stadium”, which was first shown in 1967.

The original complaint, by Sid Bernstein Presents, claims Bernstein retained the copyright to the the footage, despite The Beatles’ film-distribution company, Subafilms – with Apple Corps, one of two defendants in the case – obtaining a copyright registration in 1988.

“This case is an entirely meritless attempt by the corporate successor of the promoter of The Beatles’ celebrated concert at Shea Stadium, Sid Bernstein, to claim over fifty years after the fact that Bernstein was somehow an author and copyright owner of the film of that concert,” reads Robins Kaplan’s statement. “This is in spite of the following facts:

“The plaintiff has brought an utterly frivolous claim for rights Bernstein never had. The complaint should be dismissed in its entirety with prejudice”

“First, Bernstein’s contract with The Beatles’ management company, Nems Enterprises Ltd (the predecessor-in-interest of defendants Apple and Subafilms), explicitly provided that: ‘[Bernstein] agrees to exclude from the premises and particularly from the immediate vicinity of the stage and the backstage areas all TV cameras, and/or photographers with motion-picture cameras and/or tape recorders unless specifically authorised by [Nems] […] [Nems] shall have the sole and exclusive right to photograph, film, videotape and/or record the performance of THE BEATLES and the entire supporting show during this engagement and any receipts derived therefrom shall belong exclusively to [Nems].

“Second, plaintiff admits that Bernstein had no control over or input into the filming of the concert or in the production of the resulting film, The Beatles at Shea Stadium.

“Finally, plaintiff admits that Bernstein, throughout the nearly fifty years after the Shea Stadium concert until his death in 2013, never asserted any claim of authorship or copyright ownership in the film of the concert – which first aired nationally in 1967 – despite the consistent, notorious and exclusive claims of ownership by Nems, Apple and Subafilms, all of which excluded Bernstein from any receipts from their various exploitations of the film.

“As a matter of simple contract law, copyright law and the application of the statute of limitations, plaintiff – claiming to have received a general grant of Bernstein’s intellectual property rights – has brought an utterly frivolous claim for rights Bernstein never had. The complaint should be dismissed in its entirety with prejudice.”

A response to the motion to dismiss the case, from judge George B. Daniels, is due by 2 November.

 


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