Why weren't The Beatles on iTunes?

The History of Apple v. Apple

In the early 1980s, the primary ways to purchase a copy of music were to buy an LP, 8-track tape or cassette tape. It would be years before the computer and the media center would merge technologies. So, when The Beatles' company Apple Corps sued the up-and-coming Apple Computer in 1981, it seemed reasonable that the computer company would agree to never be in the music business. The two companies instead agreed to share the disputed trademark in completely separate markets: Apple Corps in the music business, and Apple Computer in the computer business.

When Apple started developing computers that made sounds, the company decided its 1981 agreement needed revisiting. Attempts at renegotiating in 1987-88 led nowhere, and Apple went on to release its first computers with Musical Digital Interface (MIDI) in 1989. Apple Corps snapped to attention, claiming a violation of the 1981 settlement. After another round in court, Apple Corps and Apple Computer reached a new settlement in 1991 with undisclosed terms.

In 2003, Apple Computer's launch of iTunes created a stir throughout the music business. With iTunes, Apple was selling music track-by-track, allowing you to download your purchases and copy them onto your iPod. Apple was taking the downloadable media market by storm, even in a time where Internet music sharing was creating growing legal controversies. Suddenly, each recording company and artist was in a position to either embrace or reject this new way of selling music.

Apple Corps came forward again in 2003 stating that the launch of iTunes was another breach in their trademark agreement. In the meantime, though, Apple Corps had other issues, fighting EMI in another of a long history of lawsuits for unpaid royalties they claimed were owed to The Beatles for releases in the '90s. In 2007, Apple Corps finally settled both cases, including completely replacing their trademark agreement with Apple, Inc.

Apple Corps manager Neil Aspinall, who would soon retire, stated about the 2007 settlement that it was "great to put this dispute behind us and move on" (source: Apple Inc.). Apple fans and iTunes customers were relieved to hear the news, hoping it would mean that The Beatles' catalog would soon be available at the iTunes store. But it took more time to work out a deal.