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Why don’t streaming services know who wrote The Beatles’ songs?


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The latest twist in the controversies around ‘notices of intent’ (NOIs) in the US concerns the most famous band of all-time: The Beatles.

The Music Tech Policy blog notes, with clear scorn, that Google, Amazon and Spotify have all filed NOIs for works by The Beatles, including ‘Love Me Do’, ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ and ‘Penny Lane’.

For all three of these examples, the NOIs were filed with the songwriters listed as ‘unknown’ by the streaming services (Amazon and Google in those instances) although to Spotify’s credit, at least Lennon, McCartney and George Harrison are listed as the songwriters in its filings.

The blog notes that all these tracks were released before 1978, which means their original registrations can’t be searched online in the US Copyright Office’s public catalogue – they’d have to be looked up by going along in person to the Library of Congress to root through cards.

“So…if these companies really are doing the research they attest to doing, the Copyright Public Records Reading Room must be quite a busy place. In fact, there must be a line out the door. Or the research staff must be buried,” suggests the blog, with withering sarcasm.

As we’ve noted before, direct deals with publishers mean the surviving Beatles and their bandmates’ estates are getting paid for streams on these services.

Even so, the filings lay bare some of the more ridiculous elements of the way the current system of copyright registrations is working in our sector, and it’s fair to point to them and look for answers.

Stuart Dredge

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