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Beatles’ Apple Corps win Shea Stadium lawsuit

A New York judge has thrown out a lawsuit by the estate of Sid Bernstein, the late promoter of the Beatles’ 1965 show at Shea Stadium, alleging the band’s Apple Corps company had infringed on its copyright by including footage from the concert in documentary film Eight Days a Week.

The suit – which was in October criticised as “frivolous” and “entirely meritless” by Apple Corps’ lawyers – sought ownership (or joint ownership) of the master tapes by Bernstein’s company, Sid Bernstein Presents, arguing that, “[w]ithout Sid, the mastermind of the event, this film would never have been made”.

Copyright to the film – originally shown in 1966 as The Beatles at Shea Stadium – was later acquired by Apple Corps and the band’s film-distribution outfit, Subafilms, from their management company, Nems Enterprises.

Dismissal sought for “meritless” Bernstein suit

In a ruling yesterday (26 July), judge George B. Daniels, of the US district court for southern New York, said the company could not claim ownership of the footage as Bernstein did not himself film the concert, instead signing over the rights to do so to Nems.

“The relevant legal question is not the extent to which Bernstein contributed to or financed the 1965 concert,” reads the judgment. “Rather, it is the extent to which he ‘provided the impetus for’ and invested in a copyrightable work: eg the concert film.

“The complaint and relevant contracts clearly refute any such claim by Bernstein. By the express terms of the Nems-Bernstein contract, Bernstein had no control over the filming of the concert.”

Sid Bernstein Presents’ lawyer, Donald Curry, tells Reuters his client intends to appeal the decision.

 


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Beatles’ hair fetches $10k at auction

File under ‘not what we’d do with $10k’: Strands of hair belonging to The Beatles have been sold on Catawiki, an eBay-like auction website for “special objects”, for more than US$10,000.

The hair in question dates from 25 March 1964, when the Fab Four had their moptops trimmed during the filming of A Hard Day’s Night. The cuttings were swept up by John O’Gorman, head of make-up for the film, who later gave the hair to friends for a wedding anniversary present.

“Nowadays, collecting the hair of famous people is a booming industry,” explains Catawiki’s resident Beatles expert, Denny Hoekstra. “In general, the hair of celebrities will only become more valuable over time, which makes these locks of hair a good investment.”

“Collecting the hair of famous people is a booming industry”

The hair was offered for sale as four individual auctions: one for each Beatle. “Paul McCartney’s hair was the most sought after, selling for $2,996,” Hoekstra continues. “Each lot contained four to five strands, which means McCartney’s hair sold for approximately $600 per strand.

“George Harrison’s and Ringo Starr’s lots were both sold to a bidder from France for $2,901 and $2,885, respectively. The hair belonging to John Lennon yielded only $1,385, which surprised us.”

Elvis Presley holds the distinction of having the world’s most expensive barnet, with a collector previously having paid $115,000 for a piece of the King. Marxist militant-turned-ironic fashion icon Che Guevara is second ($119,500); Lennon, in a different auction, third ($48,000); Justin Bieber fourth ($40,668); and Marilyn Monroe fifth ($40,000).

 


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Dismissal sought for “meritless” Bernstein suit

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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Apple Corps sued by Shea Stadium promoter

The estate of Sid Bernstein, the late promoter of The Beatles’ famed 1965 concert at Shea Stadium in New York, is taking legal action against two of the bands’ companies, Apple Corps and Subafilms, for alleged copyright infringement over use of footage from the show in upcoming documentary film Eight Days a Week.

Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years – directed by Ron Howard and produced in cooperation with both surviving Beatles and the widows of George Harrison (Olivia) and John Lennon (Yoko Ono) – includes 30 minutes’ worth of remastered footage from Shea Stadium, the copyright to which was later acquired by Apple Corps, founded by The Beatles in 1968, and film-distribution outfit Subafilms.

However, Sid Bernstein Presents disputes the legality of the copyright and claims ownership of the concert footage, parts of which have appeared previously in the Ed Sullivan-produced film The Beatles at Shea Stadium and in the Anthology documentary series.

Sid Bernstein Presents seeks to be named sole author of the Shea Stadium footage, or joint author with The Beatles

The lawsuit, Sid Bernstein Presents, LLC v. Apple Corps Limited et al, was filed in the New York Southern District Court on Sunday (11 November).

The suit, reports Billboardproposes several solutions, including having Sid Bernstein Presents named sole author, or joint author with The Beatles. It also seeks to have previous use of the footage declared copyright infringement.

Donald Curry, representing Sid Bernstein Presents, tells Billboard a statement on the case will be issued later today.

 


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