When the Ron Howard-directed Beatles documentary hits theaters this Friday (Sept. 16), plenty of Fab Four fans will be delighted to see remastered footage of the band playing Shea Stadium in 1965 as supplemental material following screenings of Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years. But not everyone is quite so thrilled about the inclusion of the 30-minute Shea Stadium footage in the movie's theatrical run.
On Monday (Sept. 12), Sid Bernstein Presents, LLC - a company representing the late businessman who promoted the group's 1965 concert at New York's Shea Stadium - filed lawsuit against two Beatles-related companies, Apple Corps Ltd. and Subafilms Limited. "Without Sid, the mastermind of the event, this film would never have been made," reads a statement from the plaintiff. "The Bernstein Family is guided by their father's spirit of peace and humanity. However, they are also guided by principle and look forward to having an opportunity to present their case in court."
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, says Bernstein, who died in 2013 at 95, produced the concert and hired the Beatles and the supporting acts to perform.
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Bernstein's company learned that the Beatles planned to release a 30-minute remastered film of the concert in theaters and submitted an application to register ownership of the 1965 "Master Tapes" of the Shea Stadium performance in July of this year with the Copyright Office using a deposit copy of the movie, but the application was rejected on the grounds it did not have direct access to the master tapes of the footage. The company then notified The Beatles' Apple Corps Ltd. and Subafilms Limited that it believed it was the sole author of The Beatles at Shea Stadium 1967 TV special (referred to in the suit as the "Movie") and the concert footage, and requested negotiations with the Beatles for an agreement, but the request was rejected.
Although the Beatles currently hold copyrights on some of the contested material, the lawsuit contends Sid Bernstein Presents is the rightful owner of the Shea Stadium footage by virtue of the following reasoning: "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." The suit asks for an injunction preventing the remastered footage from being shown, distributed and reproduced -- it does not, however, ask for a preliminary injunction, meaning the suit does not seek to prevent the footage from being screened in theaters this weekend.
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The suit proposes several solutions, including having Sid Bernstein Presents be named sole author, or alternatively joint author with the Beatles, of the master tapes of the concert. It also asks that previous attempts to register copyright that were rejected by the Copyright Office be declared valid and it be awarded the copyright to the Shea Stadium footage and that the court declare the use of the footage in the past be considered copyright infringement.
That means this new lawsuit isn't just taking umbrage with the footage being screened in theaters in 2016 -- it's also claiming infringement occurred two decades ago when the Shea Stadium footage appeared in the 1995 docu-series The Beatles Anthology. The lawsuit takes issue with the TV broadcast of the Anthology and its subsequent commercial releases, including the Anthology 2 album, which includes a live performance of "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" taken from the Shea concert.
The attorney for the plaintiffs, Donald Curry, told Billboard a statement on the case would be issued Wednesday.
In an interview in 2009, Bernstein said he made a deal with Beatles manager Brian Epstein that clinched the agreement to have the Beatles headline a concert at the baseball stadium because Epstein didn't originally believe the Beatles could fill the venue. "I ad-libbed. 'Brian, I'll give you $10 for every empty seat.' I'd won his confidence and friendship during the Carnegie Hall concert. He said, 'That's a deal.'"