Sony Exploring Sale of Music-Publishing Unit

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Sony Corp. appears to be moving forward with plans to sell off its half of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, after recently triggering a clause in its contract with its co-owner, the Michael Jackson estate, that allows one party to buy out the other, according to people familiar with the matter.

The world’s biggest music-publishing company, Sony/ATV is co-owned by Sony and the estate of the late pop star, who died in 2009. Mr. Jackson and Sony had jointly owned the company since 1995, with each partner holding a 50% stake.

Sony/ATV’s catalog includes the copyrights to most of The Beatles’ songs, as well as songs by stars ranging from Marvin Gaye and the Rolling Stones to pop’s Taylor Swift and dance music’s Calvin Harris. Unlike record labels, which own and distribute sound recordings, music publishers own rights to lyrics and melodies and license them out for various uses—including recordings released by…

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