Apple V. Apple: Defining Music In The Digital Age


Anyone with an iPod full of songs purchased on iTunes might think they’ve actually downloaded the equivalent of physical copies. But Apple’s defense for a lawsuit brought by the first Apple — the Beatles’ music publisher/record label Beatles — says all it provides is digital data transmission that doesn’t contravene a 1991 settlement about selling music in physical form. It’s the third legal round for Apple Computer and Apple Corps, due in a London court this week. The Beatles’ Apple Corps claims that the younger company is breaching a 1991 agreement that it would not sell music using the Apple trademark. Apple Computer says the agreement allows the sale of online data transfers, which would include digital music downloads. It’s the third round for the two — the first suit in 1980 included an agreement that the startup wouldn’t sell music; the second filed in 1989 allowed the sale of Macs on which music could be edited and played, not created. It concluded with a $26 million settlement. This latest suit, filed in 2003, is a byproduct of iTunes’ creation and launch, and could be more costly if the judge decides in favor of the Beatles.
The NYT raises the rumor that a settlement is in the works allowing iTunes to sell Beatles tunes, something the sides deny. For now, the Beatles remain unavailable for legal digital download. While they could wind up with iTunes, I’d be surprised if they don’t set up their own storefront given the passion for control. (That’s one more thing the two have in common.) More from TimesOnline,.

TUAW scolds Apple Corps for failing to recognize the genius of Apple Computer, for losing money by not selling its music through iTunes and for having the temerity to think people might confuse the two. That last misses one point sure to come up in court: Prior to iTunes, if I’d seen an Apple music store I’d probably have expected it to be the only Apple I connected with music sales, not the one that made computers. Now, it would be confusing if the Beatles started selling music online using their own trademark.

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