EMI and The Beatles have settled their ongoing copyright dispute in a move that could finally end up making the Fab Four’s music available from online download sites. The band’s holding company Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) Corps took the label to court in London and New York in 2005, claiming, EMI, which distributes Beatles music, owed £30 million ($60 million) in unpaid royalties. Apple Corps settled a separate trademark dispute with Apple Computer back in February, allowing each company to use the “Apple” name. Apple Corps CEO Nigel Aspinall said then that “the years ahead are going to be very exciting times for us”, but the EMI suit remained a roadblock. Announcing their new DRM-free download repertoire earlier this month, both Steve Jobs and EMI CEO Eric Nicoli said they were “working on” bringing The Beatles to iTunes. An offline statement from Apple Corps, issued today after The Telegraph broke the story, said its dispute with EMI had been “settled on mutually acceptable terms last month”.
Although The Beatles have so far declined to offer songs for sale online, with both barriers now removed, the band is free to negotiate a possible online distribution license with EMI. An EMI corporate spokesperson told me there “has been no announcement about online distribution” but, if The Beatles’ back catalogue goes online, it could end up making more in sales than the disputed royalties. And don’t bet against iTunes Store being the first to offer The Fab Four’s old tunes in sparkly digital format – EMI has picked iTunes to be the very first to retail its new hi-def, DRM-free line-up. How times change.
– EMI Drops DRM For New Premium Line-Up, Higher Price; Apple First
– Beatles, Apple Settle Trademark Dispute; No Mention Of Anticipated iTunes Deal