Intellectual property expert weighs in on the Beatles’ use of AI in new release

On 2 November 2023, The Beatles released what has been deemed their final record with the use of AI. John Lennon’s vocals as well as shelved pieces of George Harrison’s work have been combined with new work from Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr to create ‘Now and Then’.  

Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison have previously collaborated to release ‘Free as a Bird’ and ‘Real Love’. These tracks used John Lennon’s vocals after his passing. The band never released ‘Now and Then’ due to technological issues with the track. Therefore it has laid dormant until now.  

Director Peter Jackson and his team have developed cutting-edge technology using machine learning and AI. This technology allows the user to split tracks into separate components. This development has allowed the remaining two Beatles band members to revisit this track and produce it as potentially the final Beatles release.  

Considering that two members of the band have passed, the track has called into question many legal points surrounding ownership and consent. Technically, all four band members have been a part of the creation of ‘Now and Then’. However, nobody can say for certain that Lennon and Harrison would have provided their consent to produce their work in this manner.  

Alan Harper, partner at Walker Morris and intellectual property expert, has weighed in on the ongoing discussion surrounding the Beatles’ new release. 

“It is fair to say that the AI revolution has captured the public’s imagination this year through the wider availability of AI tools such as ChatGPT and Midjourney.  

“A further example of AI being used in a way that is of interest to the public is the recent release of “Now and Then” by the Beatles. To create the song, AI tools were used on a demo recording from John Lennon back in the 1970s. 

“The output of this process was a vocal recording which could be mixed in the usual way. Not only does this showcase what AI is capable of, highlighting another potential use case, it also raises a number of interesting legal points, in particular the question of ownership. These are questions which will need to be tackled and will no doubt create much legal discussion. 

“I am dealing with AI related queries more frequently and providing legal advice based upon the law as it stands. However, some questions cannot yet be answered, and businesses need to be mindful of the issues and risks.” 


Image: Canva
Emma Cockings
Emma is the staff writer for Yorkshire Legal News.