Ace Arts filed suit against Sony and Apple Thursday in an effort to get the two media giants' lawyers off its case and let it release a Beatles documentary.
The Beatles' first live U.S. concert — February 11, 1964 in Washington, D.C. — was set to be included in its entirety in the upcoming Screenvision documentary, “The Beatles: The Lost Concert.”
Apple Corps. has its own Beatles concert project in the works. "The Beatles Live!" will incorporate concert footage from band's tours in the 1960s submitted by professionals and fans.
Ace Arts is suing for the right to distribute its version, “The Beatles: The Lost Concert.” It claims “the company that funded, taped, and exhibited the D.C. Concert allowed the film of the concert (the ‘Tape’) to be transferred without copyright protection.”
According to the lawsuit, no copyright was ever filed, and a copy of the 35-minute long tape ended up in the documentary producers hands. The entirety of that footage is embedded in Ace’s 86-minute documentary film.
Ace Arts claims that more than a million dollars have been spent producing the documentary, including amounts paid to acquire the tape. The suit states that “these sums were to be recouped through the exhibition of the documentary, which defendants wrongfully halted,” estimated that the value of presenting the film was “reasonably projected to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”
But Sony threatened legal action to block the film from seeing the light of day. The suit contends that Sony/ATV gave Apple a means to block exhibition of "The Lost Concert" by granting Apple Corp. an exclusive synchronization license.
It charges that Sony was motivated to grant this license "contrary to the terms of the Agreement previously reached with the Producers" due to its business relationship with Apple. “Exclusive synchronization rights are highly unusual in the industry,” it stated.
The suit also charges that Apple Corps. threatened the producers with infringement of “performers’ rights” in October 2010. The following month, Sony/ATV threatened to sue.
Ace beat them to the punch. Hopefully, for the sake of Beatles fans, they "can work it out."
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.