Beatles not ready to release music to iTunes

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

London (UK) – Negotiations between the Beatles and EMI, which releases the Beatles music catalog under the Apple Corps label, to make titles of the legendary band available on iTunes have “stalled”, Paul McCartney told the BBC earlier today. He said that EMI was demanding “something: the Beatles “are not prepared to give.” Welcome to a new round of iTunes-Beatles speculations and why the band’s music is not available. Our bets are on DRM.

The Beatles on iTunes were considered a done deal last year in April, when EMI settled a royalties dispute with Apple Corps, which is owned by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison. Back then, EMI said the two companies had found an agreement that would put aside a $59 million claim of Apple Corps for allegedly unpaid royalties between 1994 and 1999.

However, at least as far as Beatles and iTunes is concerned, there are still substantial roadblocks – substantial enough to keep Apple Corps from agreeing to release the catalog online.

"We'd like to do it," McCartney told BBC News. "We are very for it, we've been pushing it. But there are a couple of sticking points, I understand." He added: "Last word I got back was it's stalled at the moment. But I really hope it will happen because I think it should." He noted that a problem is that "EMI [wants] something we're not prepared to give 'em.”  

EMI played a similar tune. A spokesperson said that "the various parties involved have been unable to reach agreement but we really hope everyone can make progress soon."

So, what are those sticking points?

While it is clear that a release of the Beatles catalog online is sure to provide windfall for all parties involved, the time is on the Apple Corps’ side. Any release time may be as good as any other, given the fact that physical media with Beatles music are still selling well. Apple and music studios have been the primary forces in recent years to move the Beatles online due to the promotional value and the expected additional revenue potential.

Apple Corps is clearly very careful about the terms and the environment Beatles music will be released. If McCartney talks about a “couple of sticking points”, there may be more than one roadblock, and if he notes that there is something that EMI wants but the Beatles are not prepared to give then the two parties may be stuck in a dead end for now. We can think of very few dead ends, one of them being DRM copy protection. But that, of course, is only our contribution to the ongoing iTunes-Beatles rumor.  

However, there are some indications that Apple Corps is moving into the digital age: In October, the company said that it is working with MTV to release its music as part of a video game due out in late 2009.