Paul McCartney has begun proceedings to acquire his half of the publishing rights for The Beatles' back catalogue.

McCartney filed paperwork at the US Copyright Office in December to start his bid to regain the ownership of all The Beatles' music, which was credited to him and the late John Lennon, according to Billboard.com.

The pair had lost their rights in 1969 when a stake in their publishing company Northern Songs was sold to Associated Television (ATV) and their attempt to get the rights back failed.Under the US Copyright Act of 1976, songwriters are allowed to regain their publishing rights after 56 years, and The Beatles' catalogue hits that milestone in 2018.

Songwriters should file a claim with the Copyright Office between two and 10 years ahead of that date.

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ATV was bought by Michael Jackson for NZD$70.2million in 1985 and the company merged with Sony Music Entertainment a decade later.

Sony/ATV Music Publishing will keep the rights for Lennon's half of the publishing following a deal with his widow Yoko Ono.

Last week, it was announced that Jackson's estate was selling its 50 per cent stake to Sony executives for NZD $1108.6 million.

- AAP