Clip: Unprotected music from Apple?
Speculation Is in the Air Over EMI and Apple
By THOMAS CRAMPTON
Published: April 2, 2007
PARIS, April 1 — Relations between Apple Inc. and the EMI Group, once
at odds over the trademark rights to the Apple name, the record label
of the Beatles, seem to be getting better all the time.
On Sunday, Steven P. Jobs, the Apple chief executive, announced a
joint news conference to be held in London on Monday with Eric L.
Nicoli, chief executive of EMI, the British music giant.
An Apple spokesman in London had no comment when asked for details,
but the impending news conference set off a torrent of speculation on
possible agreements between Apple and EMI. Theories ranged from a
Yellow Submarine iPod factory-filled with Beatles music to a more
radical shift toward selling digital music without copy protection.
Speculation that the Beatles' music, which has been unavailable on
legitimate digital music services, might soon be licensed for download
from Apple's iTunes service has been rife since early February, when
Apple Inc. and Apple Corps, the guardian of the Beatles' music
interests, announced that they had settled their dispute over the
technology company's name and its use of an apple logo.
Both EMI and Apple have recently indicated an interest in making music
available without antipiracy protection.
In recent months, EMI has discussed proposals to sell unprotected
songs through a variety of digital music services that compete with
Apple, including online retail units operated by RealNetworks and
Yahoo, according to people briefed on the company's affairs. But those
plans appeared to stall after the parties could not agree on financial
Mr. Jobs waded into the controversy this year with a letter, posted on
Apple's Web site, that urged the music industry to abandon the use of
the digital rights management technologies that limit the ability of
consumers to transfer music.
Apple has faced intense criticism from governments and consumer groups
across Europe over the last year because of the digital protections on
music sold by iTunes. France passed a law intended to encourage the
easy transfer of music between digital devices.
While many independent labels already sell music without copy
protection, EMI has placed itself at the forefront of the major music
companies in questioning the usefulness of such protection.
Last week, Mr. Nicoli told a mobile operators' meeting in Orlando,
Fla., that test sales of unprotected music by a few artists offered
some promising results, but did not say whether EMI would expand or
abandon the practice.
If the announcement on Monday does involve the Beatles, the experiment
may be a much-anticipated Yellow Submarine iPod that comes supplied
with Beatles tracks, according to Mark Mulligan, a vice president at
JupiterResearch who specializes in digital music.
"The trademark settlement deal clearly raised the possibility of Apple
selling EMI music in a physical format," Mr. Mulligan said. "This is
an original idea and helps Apple with their core business, selling
Such a device had been rumored for introduction on Valentine's Day,
but never appeared, Mr. Mulligan said. He added that speculation that
the announcement might involve the sale of music without copy
protection is a result of EMI's drawn-out negotiations with a number
of music retailers.
"Negotiations for sale of unprotected music through retailers,
including iTunes, Napster and others, just faded out," Mr. Mulligan
said. "The idea of a major record label selling unprotected music was
unthinkable a year ago, but is now under serious consideration."
The possible sale of unprotected music has been driven in part by the
much larger illegal downloading markets, he said. Some European
countries have so much piracy that five songs are downloaded illegally
for each song sold over the Internet, according to JupiterResearch.
Mr. Mulligan insisted on holding in reserve one theory about Apple's
plans: "Knowing Apple, they could be bringing out a major surprise we
have not yet considered."
Jeff Leeds contributed reporting from Los Angeles.