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The Beatles, Apple, and iTunes 367

Posted by Hemos
from the a-tale-of-two-apples dept.
novus ordo writes "Apple is being sued in London by Apple Corps, owned by the former Beatles and their heirs. This is a third battle over the name 'Apple' in Britain. Apple Corps has previously been awarded $26M by Apple Computer for the use of the name."
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The Beatles, Apple, and iTunes

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  • Gah? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis@REDHATgmail.com minus distro> on Monday March 27, 2006 @08:30AM (#15001847) Homepage
    I dunno, but only people who are over the age of 50 would even be old enough to remember the Beatles and specifically the name "Apple" being associated with them.

    If you ask any random 16-24 yr old person on the street the name of the Beatles label you'll probably get a low percentage of correct answers.

    I don't see how Apple Computers is in anyway confusing people away from the Apple label. When I think itunes I don't think of the Beatles. I think of frustration at using a crappy piece of software [in light of things like GNUpod] and horrible DRM.

    Tom
  • by commodoresloat (172735) * on Monday March 27, 2006 @08:32AM (#15001859)
    From the article -- "The court will be treated to a demonstation of an iPod, but it is unlikely to play a Beatles song, as they have not been licensed for download and it would therefore be illegal." How is that true? I checked the iTMS and there are 16 Beatles songs available, including the appropriate-for-this-lawsuit track "Baby You're a Rich Man." Are they just off base or is there something I'm missing here?
  • by Prong_Thunder (572889) on Monday March 27, 2006 @08:33AM (#15001860)
    It should also be mentioned at this point that Beatles->Apple are obliged to take action against Jobs->Apple over the trademark infrigement, otherwise the trademark will be automatically nullified.
  • by kalidasa (577403) on Monday March 27, 2006 @08:33AM (#15001863) Journal

    The article says

    Any damages for this latest clash could amount to tens of millions of pounds because it concerns Apple Computer's hugely successful iTunes Music Store and iPod digital music players.

    How cute of them. Try hundreds of milliions of pounds. Apple Computer keeps shaving as much off that settlement as they possibly can, and they're going to have to pay sooner or later. The best thing would be a settlement for a few hundred million pounds, a disclaimer ("iTunes and Apple Computer are not affiliated with Apple Corps Records") and an agreement to release the Beatles' catalogue on iTunes giving McCartney, Starkey, and the Lennon and Harrison estates an extra-large slice of the ... well, you know.

  • Re:Gah? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Monday March 27, 2006 @08:40AM (#15001897)
    I'm 27, I was not a Beatles fan, My son who is 8 LOVES the Beatles.

    SO... what was your point?
  • Re:Um... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hope Thelps (322083) on Monday March 27, 2006 @08:48AM (#15001930)
    I would think, after being successfully sued, that indicated "Yes, WE SUCK. Here is some money so you leave us alone!", in which case, Apple Corps couldn't rightfully sue Apple computers for this... again.

    That's right. It's like if I punch you in the face and you sue me and win then afterwards I'm entitled to punch you,kick you, run you down in my car etc whenever I like and you can't do anything about it. It's obvious really.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 27, 2006 @08:55AM (#15001955)
    What actually do Apple Records do nowadays if they don't hold the back catalogues?

    They don't have to "do" anything, they hold an active trademark on the brand name "Apple."

    I'm guessing they don't release the new Beatles records, so is it just a holding company to look after the existing assets?

    Yes. They distributed music other than the Beatles.

    Maybe in this case it would be more effective for Apple Corporation to buy Apple Records - or maybe it would be even more appropriate for Steve Jobs other media corporation, Disney, to just buy Apple Records?

    Why should Apple Corp sell for less than they stand to be awarded at trial? Why should Apple Computers or Disney buy an ancient company with insignificant profits for hundreds of millions of dollars?

    As for the point of the remaining Beatles licensing the back catalogue to Apple to make available via iTunes, wouldn't it actually be Michael Jackson who would be in the position to do that?

    No, it would very likely be Sony.
  • by Sesticulus (544932) on Monday March 27, 2006 @08:58AM (#15001965)
    Actually the U2 iPod didn't come with the music loaded. Some of the media reported that, but I checked one out at the store and what it had was a coupon for $50 off the price of buying the entire U2 collection.
  • by Fred Or Alive (738779) on Monday March 27, 2006 @08:58AM (#15001968)
    I looked on the UK iTMS, and there are 16 songs, but they're "Pro Backing Tracks", not actual Beatles songs. The rights over the Beatles' compositions and the Beatles' recordings are held by different companies, it's only the company who licences the Beatles' recordings (Apple Corps) that doesn't like Apple Computer. Sony ATV Music[1] presumably don't care if covers of Beatles' songs appear on iTMS, as long as they get paid.

    [1] There are some Beatles songs held by other companies AFAIK, just Sony ATV is the main one.
  • Re:What's next? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bev_tech_rob (313485) on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:00AM (#15001973)
    According to TFA, that agreement covered only PHYSICAL media like CDs or tapes. I agree with Apple computer's position, that Itunes is just data transmission...
  • Re:What's next? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nwbvt (768631) on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:07AM (#15001999)
    No, according to Apple Computer that agreement covered only physical media like CDs or tapes. Apple Records has a different interpretation. This settlement was reached long before the downloading songs was a common method of music distribution, so this concept was not specified in the settlement.
  • by catwh0re (540371) on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:32AM (#15002131)
    It's a bit hard to speculate. Since Apple were well aware of what they were doing post the 26M settlement, all music sales occur under "iTunes" instead of "Apple".

    It's deliberate that the word "Apple" is not associated with any music selling.

    The case is being brought on the merit that Apple Computer is ultimately selling music. Should settlement occur, it won't be a giant blow-out curtosy of the steps Apple have already taken. (This is why no one is particularly worried.)

  • Re:Gah? (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:49AM (#15002227)
    Really though, will you walk away from a fool and his money?
  • by IainMH (176964) on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:55AM (#15002257)
    I find it hard to care about some very very rich people [bbc.co.uk] suing some equally rich people [appleinsider.com].

    IANAL but the case wont have too much impact on future law. Apple Computer said that they will never be in the music biz so were alowed to use the name. Now they are they've renaged on the deal so they will have to pay. It's the cost of doing business in that segment. The only question is how much.

    Neither of the parties will have any less bread on their table as a result.
  • Re:Gah? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hey! (33014) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:02AM (#15002303) Homepage Journal
    Precisely proof that Apple Computer has diluted the trademark of Apple Corps to the extent that they have illegally substituted their brand for that of the original owners.

    Agreed.

    Which is why this lawsuit against Apple Computer must succeed to be fair.

    Disagree.

    The original lawuit was lawyer driven legal harassment. You can't own a common word in countries I know of, except to differentiate your product within its specific class of products. Since there was no chance that tunes from the Beatles catalog could be confused with microcomputers, the original suit had no merit. Apple Computer paid Apple Music a token amount that probably covered part their expenses bringing the suit, which meant the Apple Music's lawyers got their payday. However the lawyer's clients could hardly have been happy walking away from what their lawyers told them was a threat to their trademark, so the laywer extracted from Apple Computer what was then an empty promise: that Apple Computer would stay out of the music business.

    And the substance and letter of that then empty promise is what is at issue.

    Now, if you'll note, Apple Computer is very careful to avoid branding their muisc services as "Apple" music service. It's "iTunes(tm)". The closest you get to associating the words "iTunes" and "Apple" is that there is an "iTunes" page on the apple web site. However, in the store itself, you are running inside the iTunes program, and the web content provided doesn't say "Apple" anywhere in it. This should be surprising; companies running stores usually are drilling their names into your brain at every opportunity. You've got the "Apple Computer" logo on the iTunes program frame, but it never appears inside the content pane. Get it? You are using Apple Computer software to access the music store, but the music end of the business is not branded with Apple Music's name.

    In my view, this is pure sophistry, since you can't readily use the Apple iTunes software with anything but the Apple iTunes store. And Apple knows better than anyone else that the delivery mechanism is part of a unified customer experience -- that's their very strategy. Users don't differentiate between an Apple logo in the window frame and an Apple logo in the content pane.

    So now I think Apple Corps Music has a legitimate trademark beef with Apple Computer; however that's not what's at issue. What's at issue is Apple's promise about staying out of the music business. The question is, did Apple Computer's lawyers cleverly trick Apple Corps lawyers into thinkng they'd agreed to stay out of the music business, when if fact all they did was agree to stay out of the music business as it existed then, to wit: distributing recordings of music on physical media. If so, it was a sneaky (professwional from the lawyer's point of view) thing to do; computer people even then must have been aware that music could be encoded and transmitted digitally without any physical distribution media.

    The thing is, now that they've leveraged their computer business to get into the music business, it wouldn't be hard for Apple Computer to fix the trademark problem. They might have to pay a one time settlement and desist from associating their Apple Computer logo with their music store, which is easy as designing a new iTunes logo and updating their software. But if Apple Corps could sink its teeth into the very business of iTunes, rather than its trade dress, they'd be onto something magnitudes larger. Like the original lawsuit, it's a self-serving abuse of the legal systems put in place to help artists, and by which the Beatles had already profited beyond all but the wildest dreams of greed.

    And it all hinges on exactly how the concept of "staying out of the music business" was worded in the original settlement. I'll bet that Mr. Jobs and his lawyers fleeced those Apple Corps bastards and left them buck-naked in the oncoming snow storm. God help the bastard who meets a smarter bastard.

  • by balloonhead (589759) <doncuan.yahoo@com> on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:39AM (#15002571)
    Well, they are analogue, so hold much much more than 64kbs. You could encode them at 1Gb/s and still not get all the information.

    That most of the information is noise rather than signal, on the other hand...
  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:57AM (#15002719)
    Apple Records exists mostly to look out for the Beatles interests. The Beatles have been involved in some VERY lengthy court battles with their record labels (essentially Capitol in the USA and EMI everywhere else. That's not 100% accurate as Capitol was in Mexico too, but it's close enough to accurate.). The Beatles reached a deal with EMI/Capitol where basically they got paid a lot of money, all future releases have an Apple logo on them and the Beatles basically don't challenge EMI/Capitol's technical ownership of the recorded tracks as long as EMI/Capitol do only what the Beatles say with those tracks. The Beatles may not technically own their old recorded material, but they have 100% control over it.

    It is now more or less a holding company. Their most successful non-Beatles artists were Badfinger and Mary Hopkin. Apple stopped releasing records under its own label in 1975. They did re-issue some non-Beatles material on CD in the early 1990s, but almost all of that is now out of print.

    Apple (the Beatles' Apple) is privately owned and as such, they are under no obligation to sell it.

    Michael Jackson owned only the publishing rights to the Beatles' songs. To raise the money to start Apple Records, the group foolishly sold the publishing rights around 1968. Michael has no control over the recorded versions themselves. The publishing rights changed hands a few times and eventually Michael bought it by secretly outbidding Paul McCartney by a lot. Paul has said that he tried to get Yoko to offer more as he felt that as John's widow she should own half of the publishing, but Yoko wanted to get them cheap and refused to pay what Paul thought it would take to get it. While he was trying to talk Yoko into paying more, Michael offered maybe 3 or 4 times what Paul/Yoko's offer was and the guy who owned the songs jumped at it.

    The sad truth is that the Beatles will NEVER own their publishing again. I would guess its value is at least half a billion dollars. Neither Paul nor Yoko will fork over that kind of money to get it. It could be worth more than half a billion.

    The Beatles and their organization are run very strangely. They think that the less they do, they more valuable their stuff becomes. About once every 5 years, they re-issue something and act like they have given us fans some piece of gold. There are still unreleased tracks in the vaults and I doubt they will ever see the light of day, at least not until Paul and Ringo have died. They ought to try to get as much money as they can now from the old catalog and release the best of the unreleased stuff now while someone still cares. My 13 year old nephew and his friends barely know who they are. I was born in the 60s and to my nephew, the Beatles are as far removed from him in time as the Big Band guys of the 1930s were to me.

    The price that Apple Computers will continue to pay until the end of time is that they will have to keep forking money over to Apple Records because they used a name too close to that of the Beatles' organization. Yes, this is pure greed. I say that as a Beatles fan and I'm not particularly an Apple fanboy either.
  • by in7ane (678796) on Monday March 27, 2006 @11:22AM (#15002931)
    Not can it only be played to the court, but a recording of the court proceedings, with the song in the background, can be re-broadcast:

    Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (c. 48)
    http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1988/Ukpga_1988004 8_en_1.htm [opsi.gov.uk]

    Parliamentary and judicial proceedings.

    45.--(1) Copyright is not infringed by anything done for the purposes of parliamentary or judicial proceedings.

    (2) Copyright is not infringed by anything done for the purposes of reporting such proceedings; but this shall not be construed as authorising the copying of a work which is itself a published report of the proceedings.
  • Re:Gah? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Golias (176380) on Monday March 27, 2006 @12:24PM (#15003489)
    The 5th ammendment to the US Constitution has a clause about double jeopardy, or the right of a citizen to not have to stand trial twice for the same crime (I.E. if you are procaimed innocent the first time, there can be no second trial). I guess the UK doesn't have this, or that it only applies to individuals.

    It would not apply anyway. The 5th Ammendment applies to criminal justice. This is a civil lawsuit.

    The lawsuit, such as it is, claims that Apple is violating the terms of their previous settlement.

    They are not, but they are skating close enough to the line that the weasel lawyers might manage to force a slightly bigger settlement.

    Knowing Apple's track record since Jobs retured, I bet they end up not only settling this lawsuit, but doing so in such a way that Apple Computer will be "forced" to use iTMS to sell all those Apple Corps recordings which they previously have not been allowed to sell.
  • by tepples (727027) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .selppet.> on Monday March 27, 2006 @01:45PM (#15004100) Homepage Journal

    The price that Apple Computers will continue to pay until the end of time is that they will have to keep forking money over to Apple Records because they used a name too close to that of the Beatles' organization.

    "Until the end of time" my behind. Apple Computer could probably just spin off its iPod and iTMS business into a wholly owned subsidiary "iTunes Inc." and leave the bit-apple logo off future iPod players. The "iPod" and "iTunes" brands are strong enough that Apple Computer could probably get away with this.

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