The suit was filed by Sid Bernstein Presents, LLC, a company representing the late businessman who promoted the Beatles’ concert at Shea. It arrives as 30 minutes of remastered footage from the concert is set to appear in Ron Howard’s new documentary about the Beatles’ touring years, Eight Days a Week. The suit seeks an injunction to prevent the remastered footage from being shown, distributed and reproduced.
A representative for the Beatles’ catalog has yet to respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.
Apple Corps. and Subafilms acquired the rights to the Shea Stadium footage in 1964 from a deal between Brian Epstein’s NEMS Enterprises and Ed Sullivan’s Sullivan Productions. While Bernstein Presents acknowledges this deal in its lawsuit, it denies the legality of the copyright and claims sole ownership of the footage for a variety of reasons.
The suit reads: “By reason of being the producer of and having made creative contributions to the 1965 Shea Stadium performance, as well as being the employer for hire of the Beatles and the opening acts, who performed at his instance and expense, Sid Bernstein was the dominant, and hence sole, author of the copyrightable work embodied in the Master Tapes, and the sole owner of all exclusive rights therein.”
In July, Bernstein Presents reportedly learned of the Beatles’ plans to release the remastered Shea footage and filed an application with the Copyright Office, which was rejected because it did to have direct access to the masters. A subsequent request to negotiate an ownership agreement with Apple Corps. and Subafilms was also rejected.
Despite the lawsuit’s request for the injunction, it does offer several solutions including naming Sid Bernstein Presents either the sole author of the concert master tapes, or a joint author with the Beatles. Furthermore, the suit asks that the court validate the company’s previously-rejected copyright registration, and thus declare that all previous use of the Shea footage be considered copyright infringement (the suit specifically names the 1995 docu-series, The Beatles Anthology, and the Anthology 2 album, which includes a live version of “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby”).
Bernstein died in 2013 at the age of 95. Along with promoting the Beatles, he worked with other British invasion groups, including the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and the Animals, and also booked artists like James Brown and Jimi Hendrix.