Photo courtesy of KRT World News
Before the surprise announcement of The Beatles catalog’s availability on the iTunes Music Store, the prospect of the downloadable Fab Four, mired in legal messes that stretch back to 1978, seemed so far away. But now it looks as though they’re here to stay.
Things looked especially dire in August, when Yoko Ono told Reuters in somewhat cryptic fashion that there was a serious stumbling block — one that could delay the downloads for the foreseeable future.
Apple CEO “Steve Jobs has his own idea, and he’s a brilliant guy,” Ono said. “There’s just an element that we’re not very happy about, as people. We are holding out. Don’t hold your breath … for anything.”
As it turned out, Beatles fans had to hold their breath for only three months. On Tuesday, all 13 Beatles studio albums, the “red” and “blue” best-of collections from the early 1970s and the two-volume “Past Masters” collection, appeared as iTunes downloads, with individual songs available for $1.29. This came one year after the Beatles discography was rereleased as remastered compact discs.
The release through iTunes comes following years of acrimony and tight negotiation between the Beatles camp and Apple.
Problems began in 1978 when Apple Corps, the company the Beatles formed in 1968 to oversee their business concerns, filed suit against Apple Computer for copyright infringement. The two parties settled three years later when Apple Computer paid Apple Corps an $80,000 settlement and promised to never enter the music business.
That lasted eight years. After Apple Macintoshes became capable of playing MIDI files, Apple Corps sued the computer company again. This time, it cost Apple Computer $26.5 million, but the judgment allowed Apple to create software and peripherals for making music. The computer company was still restricted from selling and distributing music.
In 2002, one year after launching the iPod, Apple opened the iTunes Music Store. Apple Corps sued Apple Computer again, and the case ultimately went to court in September 2006. A judge found in favor of Apple Computer the following year. The computer company paid another settlement to The Beatles that allowed it to use the Apple logo to distribute music, and officially changed its name to Apple Inc.
Since the settlement, negotiations for Beatles downloads have been ongoing, and with each new development — the release of the “Love” remix album in 2006, last year’s remastering — speculation began anew.
The result is the Beatles’ availability in all music delivery formats.
Ringo Starr offered the most cutting response.
“I am particularly glad to no longer be asked when The Beatles are coming to iTunes,” he said.