Don't hold your breath for The Beatles on iTunes

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Don't hold your breath for The Beatles on iTunes

Wed Sep 09, 2009 @ 02:17PM PST
By Eriq Gardner

Beatles13 Today is a big day for fans of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Fans will be snapping up the video game Beatles: Rock Band, as well as re-mastered versions of the band's albums. But 09/09/09 might not be quite as eventful as many had hoped.

On this same day, Apple Inc. held a big event to introduce new developments to the iPod and the iTunes media player. The spectacular timing led many frothing in anticipation that the catalog of The Beatles would finally be available for digital purchase on iTunes. After all, the marketing opportunity was ripe. And Yoko Ono had been sending strong hints.

Alas, like similar rumors of a deal from prior years, it's not meant to be.

Paul LiCalsi at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp represents Apple Corps Lld. — the company founded by The Beatles in 1968 to manage the band's financial interests — and says he hasn't been a part of any negotiations with the other Apple. If the band had struck a deal with Steve Jobs, LiCalsi would probably know.

And it doesn't sound like we should expect songs by The Beatles to appear on iTunes anytime soon either.

Most people assume that the difficulty arises from bad blood between Apple Inc and Apple Corps. over the use of a fruity trademark. After Apple Inc got into the music business with its iPod, Apple Corps sued, contending the computer company had violated an agreement. But that dispute was resolved a couple years ago, and in recent interviews, Paul McCartney has expressed some hope that the band's songs would eventually be sold through iTunes.

No, the hang-up to a deal seems to be ongoing animosity between Apple Corps and EMI, the company that owns the master recordings. At issue is what percentage of royalties EMI should pay to the band, a problem we've seen come up in ongoing legal disputes between musicians and labels. "If one (EMI) employee decides to take it home and wap it on to the Internet, we would have the right to say, 'Now you recompense us for that,'" says McCartney. "And they're scared of that."

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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