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Apple versus Apple

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This week Apple Computer will be in court in the UK, facing two of Britain's favorite sons: Sir Paul McCartney and not-sir Ringo Starr. Seems that Jobs & Co. had an agreement with the Beatles and their heirs to keep Apple Computer out of the music business, where the Beatles had a firmly established their fruit identity as Apple Corps in 1968.

The agreement has been revised a couple of times; in its most recent revision (from 1991), Apple Computer agreed not to distribute music on physical media, such as tapes or CDs. The surviving Beatles and Yoko say that iPods and iTunes could be construed as music distrubition, but Apple says that they're providing a delivery service, not content.

We're not sure what Paul and Ringo and the widows of John and George are after. The band hasn't been together for 35 years. Their label does quite well re-releasing Beatles material with Capitol/EMI, but it's essentially a back catalog. Is there really a great fear that consumers will confuse Apple with Apple? Or that the Beatles' Apple might lose money in the process?

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In fact, it's quite the opposite. Yesterday we tried to buy a Beatles download on iTunes but could only find cover versions. So we resorted to a friendly file-sharing service and found the song for free. Which means if the Beatles etc had just made nice with Apple Computer, they would have gotten their share of our 99 cents — instead they got nothing.