Apple, Beatles Let It Be

Right now, I've got Cool Change from The Little River Band pumping through the speakers built into my MacBook Pro. But all things being equal, I'd rather have Hey Jude from The Beatles accompanying my keyboard and me. I may soon get my wish.

Why? This morning, executives from Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) and Apple Corps, the label owned by the Fab Four, agreed to settle a trademark infringement suit that was filed in 2003, after Apple began selling music at its iTunes store.

Financial terms of the settlement weren't disclosed. All we know is that Apple will be able to use its logo in marketing iTunes and the iPod. That's great but ... I'm the only one who thinks a digital distribution deal with the Fab Four is in the works, am I?

All signs point to just such a deal. First, Apple Corps' home on the Web is still a placeholder -- 11 months after the trial began. Second, last April, executives admitted in court that The Beatles have every intention of allowing their music to be downloaded in the future. Third, in May, a London court ruled that the Mac maker's marketing with iTunes didn't violate a 1991 agreement with the Fab Four.

Finally, there's this press statement from Apple Corps manager Neil Aspinall, "The years ahead are going to be very exciting times for us. We wish Apple Inc. every success and look forward to many years of peaceful co-operation with them." [Emphasis mine.]

Co-operation? Oh, how I hope so. Apple says that iTunes has sold more than 2 billion songs to date, dwarfing offerings from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) , Napster (Nasdaq: NAPS  ) , and RealNetworks (Nasdaq: RNWK  ) . Adding The Beatles could give the service a nearly unassailable edge. According to The Guinness Book of World Records, the Fab Four are the top-selling musicians of all time, with more than 1 billion records sold.

With all due respect to Bono and company, forget the U2 iPod, Steve. How about a Beatles iPod?

And hey, Paul -- now that you, Ringo, Yoko, and George's estate have an agreement with Apple, isn't it time to follow your own advice? Don't make it bad. Remember to let iTunes into your heart. Then you can start to make yourself richer.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers, ranked 1,016 out of more than 21,600 in CAPS, didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. All of Tim's portfolio holdings can be found at his Fool profile. His thoughts on growth stocks, Foolishness, and investing in general may be found in his blog. Microsoft is an Inside Value pick. Yahoo! is a Stock Advisor pick. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy won't let Wall Street be.


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